At least 15 killed in China coal mine blast
01 November 2016
At least 15 people were killed and 20 others trapped underground after a gas explosion on October 31 at Jinshangou coal mine in Chongqing, according to the Xinhua news agency. Local officials said rescuers were working through the night to locate the missing miners at the privately owned mine. Only two miners were confirmed to have survived the blast.
Xinhua said the 400 rescuers were being hindered by debris blocking some of the mine's underground passageways. Gas explosions inside mines are often caused when a flame or electrical spark ignites methane leaking from the coal seam.
Ventilation systems are supposed to prevent the build up of gas, but technical and safety measures in Chinese mines are often rudimentary and many miners are killed every year. The head of China's State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said earlier this year that struggling coal mines are likely to overlook maintenance.
SAWS has ordered an investigation into the blast, saying those responsible must be “strictly punished".
Local officials in Chongqing earlier ordered the temporary shutdown of coal mines producing fewer than 90,000 tonnes a year. China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal but has announced plans to shut more than 1,000 outdated mines, as part of a broader plan to cut down on overproduction and improve safety.
Earlier this year, Xinhua reported that China's National Energy Administration recorded 171 fatalities in 45 coal mine gas accidents in 2015.
On November 2, local media said that rescuers had recovered the bodies of the other 20 miners posted as missing, bringing the death toll to 33.