Death toll in north China coal mine blast rises to 91

Rescuers found another body in a north China coal mine after a massive blast there last week, bringing the death toll to 91 with 17 still missing, the government said Monday. The blast Wednesday at the Liuguantun Colliery in Hebei was the fourth major mining accident to strike the province in less than a month, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The string of accidents prompted Hebei's Deputy Governor Guo Gengmao to announce on Sunday that the province would undergo a safety overhaul over the next few months, Xinhua said. Officials will "severely crack down on illegal coal mine production and safeguard people's lives and properties," Xinhua said.

The central government has also repeatedly vowed to do more to improve mine safety, yet fatalities occur almost daily.

A mixture of airborne coal dust and colorless, methane-laden gas known as fire damp ignited to cause the blast at the Liuguantun Colliery on Wednesday, an initial investigation showed. The colliery is located in Tangshan, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Beijing. In the month before Liuguantun, a series of mining mishaps in Hebei killed at least 65. A collapsed gypsum killed at least 33 in early November, followed by floods in the Yuanda Coal Mine and the Gaocun Colliery that killed a total of 32, Xinhua said.

China's mines are by far the world's deadliest, with floods, fires, explosions and other mishaps killing more than 6,000 last year, reports the AP. I.L.

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