Coal Mine Blast Kills 134 In China
This Aug. 31, 2011 photo shows two cans of Campbell's soup in New York. Campbell Soup Co.'s net income slipped by 5 percent in the latest quarter as it struggled to balance higher costs for ingredients and sluggish soups sales, the company said Monday May 21, 2012. The Camden, N.J.-based company, which is known for its red and white soup cans, is trying to regain lost ground after years of declining soup sales. The efforts include plans to roll out pricier, higher-quality soups and more snacks and beverages. (AP Photo/James H. Collins) / James H. Collins
Authorities say coal dust caught fire at the mine in the city of Qitaihe. Some 221 miners were underground when the blast occurred late Sunday at the Dongfeng Coal mine in Qitaihe, a city in Heilongjiang province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Seventy-four miners had been rescued by Monday, it said.
China's coal mines are the world's deadliest. Fires, floods, cave-ins and explosions are reported almost daily, and thousands of miners are killed every year despite the government's repeated attempts to improve safety and upgrade equipment.
Efforts to shut down dangerous mines have been complicated by the country's soaring demands for power to drive its booming economy.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao urged officials to curb the "possible occurrence of big safety accidents which claim huge casualties and property losses," the state-run newspaper China Daily said Monday.
The leaders called for enforcement of stricter inspections and punishments, it said.
Underscoring the dangers, 18 miners missing since another coal mine disaster last week in north China's Hebei province were confirmed dead on Monday, Xinhua said. The mine's owners fled after it flooded on Thursday, complicating search efforts, the agency said.
At the site of the blast in Heilongjiang, a man who answered the telephone at the coal mine said Li Yizhong, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety, was meeting with mine officials but refused to give any details and hung up.
Xinhua said a 269-member rescue team was searching for the trapped miners and Li told them to "spare no efforts" to save the workers.
State television showed footage of ambulances rushing to the scene and rescuers escorting a survivor from the mine, his face and clothes covered in soot.
The explosion knocked out all ventilation systems, Xinhua said, but they were working again on Monday.
The mine is owned by the Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Group Co., a conglomerate of four state-owned coal businesses in the province, Xinhua said.
The State Council, China's cabinet, has made safety overhauls at coal mines, chemical plants and fireworks factories a priority over the next few months, the China Daily said.
Running water in Heilongjiang's capital, Harbin, was restored Sunday after a five-day shutdown blamed on a Nov. 13 explosion at a chemical plant that spewed toxins into the river.
Officials have been criticized for their slow response, and for allowing the construction of a facility handling such dangerous materials near a key water source.
The government has promised to investigate the spill and punish any officials found responsible.
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