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One Still Trapped After Northeast Mine Blast

The death toll from the coal mine explosion in northeast China had risen to 213 by 1:00 PM yesterday. The search for the last missing miner is still ongoing, an official in charge of dealing with the accident's aftermath told a news briefing on Sunday.

Thirty miners were rescued from the gas explosion that occurred in Sunjiawan Coal Mine in Fuxin, Liaoning Province last Monday, said a local official, Zhou Lixian.

The identities of 210 victims have been confirmed and 119 of them have been cremated or buried, according to Zhou.

Meanwhile, compensation began to be paid on Saturday, with the families of eight victims having received a total of 200,480 yuan (US$24,242) from insurance companies yesterday, Xinhua reported.

A special team has been organized by the State Council to investigate the cause of the explosion.

The disaster occurred around 3:00 PM last Monday about 242 metres underground. Three hundred and thirty of the 574 miners on duty escaped, leaving 244 trapped.

Sunjiawan Coal Mine, with a total of 3,100 workers, is run by the Fuxin Coal Industry Group. All of their coal mines have been ordered to suspend production for safety overhauls.

Social donations of more than 15 million yuan (US$1.8 million) are being given to relatives of the casualties, including 1 million yuan (US$120,000) from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

The frequent occurrence of coal mine blasts in China have sounded alarms about levels of safety in the industry.

Xinhua yesterday attributed frequent mining accidents to unsafe working practices and disregard for safety standards whilst seeking profits.

To prevent such disasters from recurring, the leading coal producing province of Shanxi has also vowed to close all of its small coal mines with annual production below 90,000 tons by the end of this year.

Tougher measures are being taken to control and regulate its coal industry so as to guarantee mine safety. Under the plan, the province will eventually limit the total number of coal mines to about 3,000 and will no longer approve new mines that produce less than 300,000 tons a year.

Last year, Shanxi reformed coal excavation methods in its 2,256 coal mines, about 53.8 percent of the province's total.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2005)

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