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Death Toll from Coal Mine Gas Blast Hits 15
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The death toll from a coal mine gas blast in south China's Hunan Province has risen to 15 after rescuers found another 10 bodies underground on Wednesday afternoon, local sources said.

The explosion occurred at about 11:00 AM on Tuesday at Hongfa Coal Mine in Niumasi town, Shaodong County, as miners were carrying out maintenance, according to officials at the rescue headquarters.

Seventeen miners escaped and five bodies were recovered on Tuesday. Another ten bodies were recovered at 4:00 PM on Wednesday.

One of the dead is confirmed to be from southwest China's Guizhou Province, and the other fourteen are farmers from Shaodong County and nearby Shaoyang and Xinshao Counties.

Two of the nine shareholders of the coal mine have been arrested, and police are seeking general manager Mo Zhixiang, according to the local police authority.

The State Administration of Work Safety sent experts to the scene to help with the investigation on Wednesday. Damaged ventilation shafts and illegal electrical systems are believed to be the cause of the accident, according to officials.

With an expired license and no safety permit, Hongfa coal mine was ordered to stop production last August.

(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2007)

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