Coal mine explosion in China: 40 dead, 138 missing

An explosion tore through a coal mine in northeast China, leaving at least 40 dead and another 138 missing, state media reported Monday. Some 220 miners were underground when the blast occurred late Sunday at the Dongfeng Coal mine in Qitaihe, a city in Heilongjiang province, the official China News Service said, citing the local coal mine safety administration.

Forty-two miners had been rescued by Monday, it said. The report did not give the cause of the blast and said it was under investigation. The official Xinhua News Agency said earlier that 221 workers were underground and 30 bodies had been found.

It was not immediately clear why the numbers were different. A man who answered the telephone at the coal mine said he was too busy to talk and hung up. An official at the Heilongjiang Provincial Coal Mine Safety Supervision Bureau said he had no news of the explosion. "Our staff is at the scene checking out the situation," said the man, who refused to give his name. Xinhua said rescue work was continuing Monday, as managers attempted to figure out exactly how many miners were still underground.

The mine is owned by the Heilongjiang Longme Mining (Group) Co., a conglomerate of four state-owned coal businesses in the province, Xinhua said, citing provincial work safety administration officials. China's coal mines are the world's deadliest. Fires, floods and explosions are reported almost daily and thousands of miners are killed every year despite repeated attempts by the government to improve its record, reports the AP. I.L.

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