BEIJING, Feb 23 – Three top managers have been fired after a gas explosion at a coal mine in northern China killed 74 workers, according to state press, as the government ordered a probe into the blast.
The sackings were reported a day after the explosion ripped through the Tunlan mine in Shanxi province, in the deadliest accident to hit the industry in more than a year.
The mine’s boss, its top engineer and the official in charge of mine safety were all dismissed, Xinhua news agency said.
Director of the State Administration for Work Safety Luo Lin has been appointed to lead a cabinet-level task force charged with investigating the incident and allocating responsibility, the China News Service reported.
The modern mine has had a strong safety record since 2004, with no accident-related fatalities during the period.
By late Sunday night all miners earlier listed as missing had been accounted for, the Shanxi mine safety bureau said.
In addition to the 74 dead, some of whom died after being rescued from the mine, a total of 114 were injured and taken to hospital, and five were in a critical condition, the bureau said.
China Central Television said most of the miners killed in the blast were in their twenties.
Following the blast, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao issued instructions for rescuers to do everything possible to save those trapped, the mine safety bureau said.
Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang was also dispatched to the scene to oversee rescue efforts and arrangements to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy.
According to official figures, more than 3,200 workers died in China’s notoriously dangerous coal mines last year, but independent observers say the actual figure could be higher, as some accidents are covered up.