Coal mine blast in China: 23 killed, 53 poisoned

A blast at a state-owned coal mine in northern China killed 23 workers and caused 53 others to be poisoned with carbon monoxide, the government said Thursday. The blast occurred Wednesday at the Sihe Coal Mine in China's Shanxi province when some 697 workers were mining the pit, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

One of the 53 sickened by carbon monoxide was in critical condition. The report did not say if the 23 killed died from the blast or poisoning, and provided no details on how the carbon monoxide poisoning occurred.

The Sihe Coal Mine, which is a subsidiary of the state-owned Jincheng Mining Group, is one of the largest collieries in Shanxi Province and produces about 11 million tons of coal a year, the report said.

An investigation was under way to determine the cause of the blast, Xinhua said. China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with fires, explosions and floods occurring almost daily.

Despite repeated official promises to improve safety, more than 5,000 workers are reported killed every year.

Last month, China said it would close 5,290 coal mines for safety violations in a 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 (Ђ622,000) to pay compensation for deaths and other accident-related expenses, reports the AP. I.L.

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