BEIJING (AP) — The managers of an apparently unregistered coal mine in northeast China are under questioning as rescuers tried Thursday to reach 22 workers trapped for a third day.
State media reported that the mine in the city of Qitaihe in Heilongjiang province was unlicensed. China is the world's top producer and consumer of coal, and government officials have made a years-long commitment to shutting down unlicensed mines in an attempt to improve safety.
Rescuers are still trying to get to the miners, a local official told The Associated Press.
Although the cause of the blast has not yet been identified, such incidents usually occur when unventilated coal gas is ignited by a spark or open flame.
Top safety regulators have acknowledged that some mines cut corners on safety standards under financial pressure.
It announced plans earlier this year to shutter more than 1,000 underperforming mines, though hundreds of new coal plants are also under construction.
An Oct. 31 explosion at a mine in the southwestern region of Chongqing killed 33 people, weeks after a gas explosion in another mine in adjacent Guizhou province killed seven.