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Death Toll Rises to 81 in Xinjiang Coalmine Blast

The death toll in a colliery blast in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region rose to 81 as at 11:00 AM Wednesday. Two miners are still missing, government officials said.


By Wednesday, rescuers had recovered the bodies of 81 miners. They are searching for the remaining two.


The incident took place at the Shenlong Mine in Fukang County, 62 km away from the regional capital of Urumqi, early on Monday morning.


Only four out of the 87 people working in the coal mine at the time escaped.


China's work safety watchdog has blamed the blast on the exploitation of loopholes including overproduction, lax work safety license checks, and poor management.


Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration for Work Safety, said that overproduction had led to an extremely high gas density in the colliery shaft, and the management staff failed to take effective safety precautions, even after finding out about the problem.


The colliery produced some 180,000 tons of coal in the first half of this year, far exceeding its annual capacity of 30,000 tons.


Actually, gas densities had reached about 3 percent, way over the safety mark of 1 percent, three or four hours before the accident took place, Li explained.


If the colliery management had taken effective measures to evacuate miners and cut underground electricity supplies immediately after having discovered the gas density problem, the incident could have been prevented.


Li also criticized the colliery management for sending an exceedingly large number of miners underground in order to increase production.


It is likely that families of workers killed in the blast will receive at least 200,000 yuan (US$24,300) compensation each, China Central Television reported yesterday.


As a preliminary step in the investigation, authorities have placed travel restrictions on the owner and others in charge of the mine, according to the administration's website.


Coal is always in short supply as the country relies on it for two-thirds of its energy needs, a situation that is not expected to change significantly for years to come.


(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily July 13, 2005)

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