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Gas Blasts Kill 65 Miners

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.

The blast 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 accident, 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 said 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.

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.

(China Daily August 16, 2003)

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