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Death Toll Rises to 21 in N China Mine Blast
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Rescuers found remains of the last miner who went missing following a gas explosion in a coal mine inside Jincheng, a far-flung city of Shanxi Province, driving the deaths in the accident to 21.

The rescuers found the corpse at 11:30 PM on Thursday, said sources from the headquarters in charge of the rescue operation.

The blast occurred at 6:30 PM Sunday at Miaojiang Coal Mine, in Chengqu District of Jincheng City, about four hours' bus ride from Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi, when 21 miners were working underground.

Rescue work was delayed 44 hours because the mine owner allegedly attempted to cover up the accident.

The provincial bureau of work safety started investigating the accident on Tuesday.

Eleven people, including pit owner Wang Junjun, the contractor, the district work safety inspector and the official in charge of monitoring gas density, have been arrested for allegedly attempting to cover up the accident. Police are searching for another three people in connection with the allegation, said the sources.

Ji Jianlong and Meng Shuangzhai, two Communist party officials in the village where the coal mine is located, have been dismissed in connection with the allegations of a cover-up. Li Xulong, a vice head of the district, who has already been expelled from the district Party committee, is also facing removal from office, said the city authorities.

Investigation over the cause of the gas explosion is under way.

(Xinhua News Agency March 23, 2007)

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