China confirms 12 workers died in gas explosion

China on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of 12 workers trapped underground after a gas explosion in a mine shaft last week, state media reported. Rescuers reached the site of the underground explosion on Monday afternoon and discovered the bodies of all 12 workers buried in the rubble, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said work was continuing to retrieve the bodies.

The blast occurred Thursday at the Wangfenggang coal mine in Huainan City, in eastern China's Anhui province, which was under construction at the time of explosion, Xinhua said.

Two of the dead were gas density inspectors and the other 10 were construction workers employed by the Jixi Mining Administration, Xinhua cited sources at the coal mine as saying.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the accident, Xinhua said. China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with more than 5,000 deaths reported every year in fires and other disasters despite repeated official promises to improve safety.

Earlier this month, China said it would close 5,290 coal mines for safety violations in an ongoing campaign to reduce the death toll in its mining industry. It has also ordered mines to post safety bonds of up to US$750,000 (euro 622,000) to pay compensation for deaths and other accident-related expenses, reports the AP. I.L.

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