Ninety-six people were working in the Shuidong Coal Mine in Hebei province's Yuxian County at the time of the 5:30 a.m. (1930 GMT Sunday) blast, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said 79 escaped.
The cause of the blast was under investigation but was likely caused by explosives, Xinhua said.
China has world's most dangerous coal mines, with more than 5,000 deaths reported every year in fires, explosions and other accidents, often blamed on indifference to safety rules or lack of required equipment, according to the AP.
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