At least 20 dead in Chinese coal mine blast

BEIJING, CHINA—An explosion in a Chinese coal mine killed 20 and trapped 17 workers underground Saturday in the country’s central region, a national work safety official said.

The blast came shortly after the world was riveted by Chile’s dramatic rescue of 33 trapped miners after they spent more than two months underground.

A man surnamed Li with the state work safety administration said he didn’t know how far underground the 17 workers were trapped at the state-owned mine. He had no details on the cause of the 6 a.m. blast in Henan province.

China Central Television originally reported that more than 30 people were trapped and 20 killed, but Li said the earlier number of people reported trapped included the dead workers.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency cited mine officials in Yuzhou city as saying Saturday’s blast happened in a pit owned by Pingyu Coal & Electric Co. Ltd.

A man answering phones at the mine said he had not heard anything about an accident.

China’s mining industry is the most dangerous in the world, and more than 2,600 people died in mining accidents last year.

The state-backed People’s Daily newspaper reported Thursday that China has shut down more than 1,600 small, illegal coal mines this year as part of an effort to improve safety standards.

China mining fatalities have decreased in recent years as the government closed many illegal mines, but deaths jumped again in the first half of this year.

In October, the State Administration of Work Safety said mine managers and bosses who do not accompany workers down into mine shafts would be severely punished

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