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Death toll in colliery blast rises to 44 with 35 missing
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The death toll in a coal mine gas explosion in central China's Henan Province Tuesday has risen to 44 with 35 still trapped underground, the local safety watchdog said Thursday morning.

Rescue work is continuing, says the Henan Provincial Bureau of Work Safety.

The deadly blast took place about 1 a.m. Tuesday in the Pingdingshan Coal Group's Xinhua No. 4 pit in the Xinhua District of Pingdingshan City.

A total of 93 people were working in the pit when the accident occurred, of whom 14 managed to escape.

The 14 who escaped have been admitted to a local hospital affiliated to the coal group. Most suffered burns and trauma to their respiratory systems. Three of the injured are in an intensive care unit (ICU), including two in critical condition, hospital sources said.

The accident aroused the attention of top leadership, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang arrived in Pingdingshan with a government delegation at 1:10 p.m. Tuesday.

Qi Tongyan, deputy head of Xinhua District of Pingdingshan City, and Zhang Xizhi, a coal industry administration official of the city, were dismissed from their posts Tuesday afternoon, about 10 hours after the blast.

The legal representive of the mine Li Xinjun, vice heads Hou Min and Deng Qun are in criminal custody.

(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2009)

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