Mine explosion in China kills 16 workers


A gas explosion deep in a coal mine in northern China has killed at least 16 miners and left four missing, the official Xinhua news agency reported today.

The blast ripped through the Longtai Coal Mine in the province of Hebei, which surrounds much of Beijing.

At the time, 29 miners were on duty about 380 metres (1,250 ft) underground, it said. Nine were rescued, and the bodies of 16 others had been found, it said.

The mine, with an annual capacity of 50,000 tonnes, is in the city of Zhangjiakou.

China's mining industry is one of the world's biggest, but also its deadliest. Thousands of people die in explosions, floods and other accidents in the country's pits each year.

The government has closed many mines for safety inspections to try to lower the death toll, but a coal crunch has forced some local governments to speed up the inspections.