105 Are Killed in China Mine Blast

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 7, 2007

BEIJING, Dec. 7 -- A gas explosion tore through a coal mine in northern China early Thursday, killing 105 miners, the official New China News Agency reported.

The blast occurred about midnight at a mine in Linfen city in Shanxi province. By Friday morning, rescue workers had recovered 105 bodies. Fifteen other miners escaped or were rescued.

Rescue workers and state officials blocked roads leading to the mine, and authorities launched an investigation into the latest tragedy in an industry that claims about 5,000 lives each year.

Most mine accidents in China occur in small, private operations, many of which are illegal. But the Xinyao mine, as it is known to local residents, is publicly owned and employs perhaps 200 to 300 workers, villagers said.

Rescuers believe that mine officials did not immediately report the accident and tried to rescue miners themselves, which might have resulted in the high death toll, the news agency said.

Police detained Wang Hongliang, the mine's legal representative, and Gao Jianmin, its director. The mine's business license and bank account were frozen.

A man who answered the phone at the coal mine's office declined to comment.

A woman from the nearby village of Hongguang, who would give only her surname, Qiao, said the mine tended to hire migrant workers from other provinces rather than local villagers.

"Occasionally, a few miners may die in an accident, and the owners will pay compensation. Because the families of the dead are from far away, they don't protest a lot. If they were local people, they would make trouble for the mine," she said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company