Death toll in China mining blast rises to 107

AP News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2009 10:14 AM

The number of dead in China's worst mining accident in two years rose to 107 Wednesday after three more bodies were pulled out of the coal mine, state media said.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency cited local authorities as saying the bodies of two workers were retrieved Wednesday morning, with a third pulled out in the afternoon. The report said the search continued for the last two people missing under ground at the state-run Xinxing mine in Hegang city, Heilongjiang province.

China's mine safety authorities have blamed crowded conditions, insufficient ventilation and slow rescue efforts for the high death toll in the gas explosion, which hit before dawn Saturday when 528 miners were under ground.

The blast was a blow to the government's recent efforts to improve safety standards in the industry, the deadliest in the world.

The families of 18 of the miners killed have already signed one-time compensation agreements with the mine's owner, the Hegang branch of the Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group, worth 102,600 yuan ($15,000) each, according to a report in the Wuhan Evening News.

The Xinxing mine's director, deputy director and chief engineer have been fired, an employee has said. He refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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China has closed or absorbed hundreds of smaller, private mines into state-owned operations, which are considered generally safer. But some of the most deadly accidents this year continue to be at state-run mines.

The push for safety brought an 18.4 percent drop in mining accident deaths in the first six months of the year, from the same period in 2008.

Still, 1,175 people died in mining accidents.