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Gas Blasts Kill 65 Miners in Shanxi

Two separate gas explosions in north China's coal-rich Shanxi Province have led to the deaths of 65 miners.

And another five are still missing after the first explosion erupted on Monday in the city of Datong.

"Their chances of survival are very slim,'' State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) Vice Director Zhao Tiechui said on Friday.

It has led to the closure of all mines in the city to allow for a review of safety regulations.

Police have arrested the person responsible for looking after the air shaft, a ventilation technician, a production safety officer and a foreman.

In the second incident, all 28 men working in a Yangquan mine have been confirmed dead after a blast occurred at 12:40 pm on Thursday.

SAWS official An Yuanjie told China Daily that an initial investigation shows the explosion occurred as the miners were trying to pump underground gas to the surface.

On Wednesday, Xinhua reported that the families of the 37 miners killed during Monday's explosion will be compensated within two weeks.

Zhen Jianmin, president of the trade union of the Xing'ergou coal mine, said the money will be issued in accordance with regulations set by the state.

During the first six months of this year, China's coal output has increased 12 percent compared with the same period last year. But the number of fatalities from coal mine accidents has declined to 96, which is a 3.1 percent reduction.

Zhao said there have been a number of colliery accidents related to explosions or flooding over the past six weeks.

For example, 82 coal miners were killed and another eight were left missing by five severe mine floodings that have occurred around the nation since mid-July, he said.

Offering an explanation for the deaths, Zhao pointed to the loopholes in work safety management.

To curb the occurrence of accidents, the work safety watchdogs are being urged to carry out large-scale management and mining equipment inspections, he said.

The frequent number of mining accidents has aroused deep concern from within China's State Council and its leadership.

A State Council regulation, which came into effect at the start of last month, states that if two or more mines are found to be operating illegally, the onus rests with the local leaders of that area, SAWS Director Wang Xianzheng said on Friday.

After hearing about the number of severe accidents, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Huang Ju called for immediate investigations into the sector and for the strengthening of safety.

All mines that fail to meet the fundamental safety requirements will be shut down, Wang said.

(China Daily August 16, 2003)

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