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26 killed in Chinese mine blast

An explosion in a Chinese coal mine killed 26 miners and 21 others were still unaccounted for.

A mine. Picture: AFP

SHANGHAI - An explosion in a Chinese coal mine killed 26 miners and 21 others were still unaccounted for after a day in the gas-filled pit, the Xinhua news agency said, marking one of the biggest disasters of the year in the accident-plagued industry.

Rescue teams from other mines had been sent to the Xiaojiawan Coal Mine in Sichuan province and 107 miners had been rescued after Wednesday's blast, it reported on Thursday. Fifty-one were sent to hospital with seven in critical condition.

China's mines are the deadliest in the world because of lax enforcement of safety standards and a rush to feed demand from a robust economy. But the death toll from accidents has been falling, government statistics show.

The government work safety watchdog said that 1,973 miners were killed in coal mine accidents last year, according to state media. In 2010, 2,433 people were killed, down from a toll of 2,631 the previous year.

Rescue efforts in Sichuan were hampered by high temperatures reaching as high as 90 Celcius in the gas-filled pit, it quoted the rescue headquarters as saying.

Carbon monoxide was dense in the zone where the miners were trapped and only mask-wearing rescuers had been able to enter, it quoted authorities as saying.

Xinhua said the Xiaojiawan mine was owned by Zhengjin Industry and Trade Co., Ltd. Police were questioning the owner. The mine is 750 km southwest of the provincial capital Chengdu, Xinhua said.

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