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20 Dead, 10 Missing in Shanxi Coal Mine Explosion
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Rescuers have recovered the bodies of five more miners who were trapped in Saturday's gas explosion in a coal mine in Linfen, Shanxi Province, north China, raising the confirmed death toll to 20.

The fate of 10 other miners is not known as rescue efforts continue, according to rescue headquarters.

"The smoke inside the shaft is so thick that it's very difficult for us to go down to look for those still trapped," said one rescuer.

A gas blast occurred around 1:50 PM on Saturday at Pudeng Coal Mine in Kecheng Township of Puxian County where 125 miners were working.

Ninety-five miners, including 23 who were injured -- one seriously, escaped, according to a press release given by Shanxi Provincial Bureau of Work Safety on Sunday.

Bureau sources said the coal mine had been earlier ordered to suspend production but mine operators resumed production without a permit.

"The coal mine was in a mess and under poor management," said the provincial work safety watchdog, adding that the 125 miners who were working underground at the time of the blast had been hired by five different mining contractors.

Zhao Tiechui, director of the State Administration for Coal Mine Safety Supervision, together with local officials led by Shanxi Governor Yu Youjun, arrived at the site to help guide the rescue operation.

Local police have put the coal mine owner and several managers under surveillance.

The cause of the gas explosion is being investigated.

Pudeng Coal Mine had an annual production capacity of 150,000 tons.

(Xinhua News Agency May 6, 2007)

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