Mine blast death toll reaches 111

The death toll from the blast in a north eastern China coal mine reached 111 today as rescuers scrambled to save workers missing after the massive gas explosion.

The death toll from the blast in a north eastern China coal mine reached 111 today as rescuers scrambled to save workers missing after the massive gas explosion.

Twenty-four miners have been rescued, several injured, from the Chengzihe mine in Heilongjiang province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, and another four are still missing.

Yesterday’s explosion happened at about 9.45am (2.45am Irish time), when about 139 workers were in the mine, Xinhua said.

Rescue teams made an ‘‘all-out bid to save the lives of miners’’, the news agency said.

The Chengzihe mine has 5,500 workers and produces 1.1 million tons of coal annually, Xinhua said.

Work has been suspended at nine other coal mines under the jurisdiction of the Jixi municipality mining administration which manages the Chengzihe mine, Xinhua said.

Mine explosions are usually caused by the ignition of dangerous concentrations of coal gas by sparks or open flames. They occur frequently in Chinese mines, which often lack even rudimentary safety equipment such as ventilators to disperse the gas.

Last year, more than 5,000 Chinese miners died from explosions, floods and other mine accidents.

At least 329 died last month alone, according to official figures.

An accurate death toll may be hard to arrive at because the government says mine owners frequently fail to report deadly accidents.

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