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Gas explosion in Chinese mine kills at least 18

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February 25, 2001 


BEIJING- (AP) - A gas explosion in a central China coal mine killed 18 people and left three missing, a local official said Saturday.

The blast at the Doulishan coal mine in Hunan province occurred Thursday when 23 workers were in the shaft, said a local government spokesman who identified himself as Mr. Yan.

Two miners escaped and rescuers are searching for three who are missing, the official said.

The cause of the blast is still under investigation and all coal mines in Lianyuan county where the accident occurred have been ordered to stop work pending checks of safety measures and equipment, he said.

China introduced new safety rules last year to stem the death toll in its mines, the world's deadliest. The rules mandate punishments for violations and require safety checks at mines and proper training and equipment for miners, who are usually unemployed farmers.

While the effectiveness of those measures has yet to be seen, a newspaper Saturday reported four men will be tried for responsibility in the deaths of 48 men at a coal mine in central Shanxi province last December.

In that case, the mine's operators secretly removed bodies and told investigators that just four miners died, the Legal Daily reported. Journalists attempting to report on the accident were attacked and their vehicle smashed in an attempt to hide the true death toll, the paper said.

In an indication of the support dangerous and often unlicensed mines receive from local officialdom, 15 government leaders in Shanxi were given administrative punishments over the case, the paper reported.

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