Coal mine explosion kills 48 in central China

Sunday, April 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ An explosion in an illegal coal mine in central China killed 48 people, a mine official said Sunday.

Only four miners escaped Saturday's blast at the mine near Hancheng, a town in Shaanxi province, 470 miles southwest of Beijing.

All others in the shaft perished, said an official at the Xiayukou mine who gave only his surname, Zhang. Forty-eight bodies have been recovered, he said.

Zhang and an official at the coal mine bureau in Hancheng said the miners must have struck a pocket of trapped flammable gas while digging, though details were still unclear. The bureau official, who refused to give his name, said the mine operated without a permit.

There are hundreds of illegal mines in China. Most operate without even rudimentary safety measures or proper ventilation that would allow deadly gases to escape. The miners are often impoverished farmers who lack proper training.

Such renegade operations help make China's coal mines the deadliest in the world. More than 4,800 miners died last year, many in explosions.

China has launched a crackdown on illegal mines and ordered routine safety inspections and proper training for miners, but the rules appear to be only spottily enforced.