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Probe into Coalmine Blast Begins
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Over the weekend the State Council's investigative group officially began its inquiry into the cause of the Chenjiashan coalmine gas blast.

Zhao Tiechui, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety and head of the disaster's investigation group, said his team intends to find out the cause of the accident, precisely what happened and the direct economic losses. The group will also identify responsibility, propose precautionary measures, and name persons responsible.

"It is the worst disaster in China's coal industry in 44 years, after the gas explosion which killed 187 miners on November 28, 1960 in the Longshanmiao coalmine in Pingdingshan, Henan Province," Zhao said at the group's meeting on Friday.

The Chenjiashan gas blast took place in the early morning of November 28 in Tongchuan, Shaanxi Province, and took 166 lives.

Over the past few days, the group has guided rescue work and collected information regarding the mine's design and production and safety plans, Zhao said.

At present, 35 bodies have been recovered, but searching for others had to be stopped due to four new underground blasts on December 2, said Huo Shichang, spokesman for the disaster rescue headquarters.

"Fortunately, the blasts did not harm any of the 61 rescuers underground, but again destroyed the just-recovered ventilation system," Huo said at a news briefing on Friday.

Zhang Tiegang, an expert from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who headed the accident group, said at the briefing that the four blasts were caused by flames underground and the best way for rescue work to continue is to pour water into the tunnel.

Last Friday, industrial safety authorities of Hebei Province said that flames from electric welding caused the iron ore mine fire that claimed 68 lives in Shahe on November 20.

Initial investigations indicated that the flames ignited some timbers in the tunnel in one mine and soon spread to four connected mines.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency December 6, 2004)

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