Twenty-four people were confirmed to be killed and five others injured in an explosion at an illegal iron mine in north China's Hebei Province, local government said late Monday.
The midday explosion happened on Sunday at the iron mine in Wu'an City, which is disguised to be a wild boar farm, and more than 30 people were trapped, the information office of the city's government said. The government immediately organized rescue operation after receiving reports on the explosion. The death toll rose to 24 by the rescue operation finished at around 00:30 AM on Tuesday, said Wang haibo, an official with the office.
Several people, including five slightly-injured, were rescued. The injured, who were receiving treatment in a local hospital, were in a stable condition, said Wang.
The explosion happened at a tunnel whose entrance is located in one of the pigpens, said the official.
Owner of the privately-owned farm ran away from the site after the explosion and was still at large, he said.
Local government has set up a task force to investigate the explosion, however, the cause of the explosion is unknown so far, he said.
"The owner has violated the law by illegally exploring the state-owned resources. To cover their illegal actions, they have built three walls to cut the farm out from the outside," said Wang.
All the victims, also workers of the farm are natives of Wu'an and their family members have come to the farm to deal with the aftermath.
Set up in 2000, the wild boar farm, covering more than five hectares at the suburb of Wu'an, belongs to the Hebei Huangshanzhen Husbandry Co. Ltd.
(Xinhua News Agency February 19, 2008)