By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 23, 2009 5:28 AM
BEIJING -- The death toll from Saturday's coal mine explosion in northeastern China has risen to 104, state media reported Monday morning, with four miners still trapped in the shaft more than a third of a mile underground.
The toll again highlights China's abysmal mine safety record, as the country's need for coal to fuel its booming economy far outpaces increased government efforts to bring the largely unregulated mining sector under stricter control. The death toll appeared likely to pass that of a December 2007 mining accident in coal-rich Shanxi province that killed 105 miners.
In August 2007, 181 miners died when two coal mines flooded in Xintai, in Shandong province. The most deadly mine accident this year before Saturday's Xingxing blast was in Shanxi province on Feb. 22, when 78 miners died.