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State media;China mine blast death toll up to 26

china blastBEIJING: The death toll from a gas blast at a coal mine in central China rose to 26 on Wednesday, state media said, after officials confirmed that more workers than previously thought were in the shaft.

A total of 46 workers were in the mine in Henan province’s Mianchi county when the gas explosion occurred late Tuesday, Xinhua news agency said.

Mine officials had initially said that only 33 workers were in the Juyuan Coal Industry Company mine at the time of the blast and that only 13 miners were killed, according to Xinhua.

Twenty miners escaped alive, the report said.

China’s notoriously dangerous coal mining sector is regularly hit by deadly floods, explosions and shaft collapses blamed on the flouting of safety rules as operators try to keep costs down.

Last year 2,631 Chinese miners were killed, according to official statistics, but independent labour groups say the true figure is likely to be much higher as many accidents are believed to be covered up.

In a separate accident also on Tuesday, four miners were killed when a coal mine tunnel collapsed in northeast China’s Liaoning province, Xinhua said in a separate report.

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