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Death Toll in Iron Mine Fire Rises to 65
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The death toll from Saturday's fire in five iron mines in Shahe City, Hebei Province, has risen to 65, said Hu Chunxing, chief of the city information office, on Wednesday. Rescue teams are continuing to search for any others who may be trapped.

The preliminary investigation revealed that the fire began when electric cables in one mine ignited and spread quickly to the four other mines, which were all connected. Heavy smoke soon trapped dozens of workers, while 51 others managed to escape.

Hu said the poor management of the mines made it difficult to determine the precise number of people who were working when the fire broke out, but estimates put the number at 116. More than 50 of the victims have been identified and their families are on their way to the site.

On Wednesday, local police detained nine owners, legal representatives and other executives responsible for operation of the five mines, according to a report in Beijing's Star Daily. The bank accounts of the suspects were also frozen.

The miners killed in the disaster, most of whom succumbed to suffocation, were either locals or from underdeveloped Guizhou Province in southwest China and Shaanxi Province in northwest China.

Insurance companies have begun to arrange to pay compensation to the beneficiaries of the miners who had insurance policies.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2004)


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