, BEIJING, Nov 21 – A gas explosion at a mine in northeast China early Saturday killed 31 workers and left 82 trapped, state-run China Central Television (CCTV) said.
The incident happened at about 1830 GMT on Friday at a mine in Heilongjiang province, Xinhua news agency said, quoting the provincial coal mine safety watchdog.
The mine is owned by the Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Holding Group, based in provincial capital Harbin.
The company said 528 miners were working in the mine, 10 kilometres from Hegang City, when the blast occurred, Xinhua reported. It earlier said 139 miners had been trapped.
CCTV said most of the miners had managed to escape.
Xinhua said vice premier Zhang Dejiang was going to the scene of the incident to direct rescue operations.
According to the company\’s website, in 2009 it was ranked 12th out of the top 100 Chinese mining companies and seventh in terms of production volume, without giving further details.
China has a dismal work safety record, with thousands of people dying every year in mines, factories and on construction sites.
Its coal mines are among the most dangerous in the world, with safety standards often ignored in the quest for profits and the drive to meet surging demand for coal – the source of about 70 percent of China\’s energy.
Official figures show that more than 3,200 workers died in collieries last year, but independent labour groups say the actual figure could be much higher, as many accidents are covered up in order to avoid costly mine shutdowns.
Due to the country\’s heavy use of coal to power its fast-paced economic growth, it has become one of the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases alongside the United States.