BEIJING (AP) — A coal mine explosion Tuesday in central China has left eight people dead and three injured, state media reported.
The blast occurred at about 1:30 a.m. at the Zoubao mine in Hunan province. Eighteen people escaped, only one of them injured, according to the official Xinhua News Agency and a Tuesday statement from China's national safety regulator, the State Administration of Work Safety.
The administration did not immediately identify the cause of the blast, but said the site was considered a "high gas mine." Gas explosions inside mines are often caused when a flame or electrical spark ignites gas leaking from the coal seam. Ventilation systems are supposed to prevent gas from becoming trapped.
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal. Its mining industry has long been one of the world's deadliest, with hundreds of deaths annually. The work safety administration has acknowledged that struggling coal mines might be likely to overlook basic maintenance.
Authorities have announced shutdowns of outdated mines and cuts in the number of work days to improve safety conditions and reduce the smog smothering many Chinese cities. However, the measures also threaten to increase energy prices in the midst of an ongoing economic slowdown, taxing the willingness of authorities to enforce them strictly.