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44 miners confirmed dead in north China coal mine accident

THE death toll in a coal mine gas blast today in north China's Shanxi Province has jumped to 44, while rescuers are beefing up their efforts.

The accident occurred at about 2: 00 am at the Tunlan Coal Mine of Shanxi Coking Coal Group in Gujiao City, about 50 km to Taiyuan, the provincial capital, when 436 miners were working underground.

A total of 340 miners managed to get out after the blast and rescuers are pulling out the trapped.

So far more than 80 rescuers are searching underground, and more have been summoned and are on the way, the rescue headquarters said.

A man in his early 20s who declined to be named is sitting beside the exit of the shaft, gazing at the busy rescuers.

"I should have been among them, had I not changed my shift with another miner," he murmured. "He is still underground. I hope he is alive."

In his team, nine miners were among the trapped, three of whom were later pulled out and rushed to hospital.

"Most of them are of my age, unmarried," he said bitterly.

A rescuer told Xinhua that some relatives of the trapped miners said they have got cell phone calls from their dear ones under the mine, which means they are alive.

Most of the miners suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, said doctors in the Xishan Hospital of Coal and Electricity in Gujiao, one of the nearest hospitals to the mine.

Zhang Baoshun, the provincial Communist Party committee chief, who is leading the rescue work at the accident site, urged to use scientific methods in rescue to prevent secondary disasters.

More than 40 ambulances have been called to the accident site.

All of the 68 hyperbaric oxygenic chambers in hospitals in Taiyuan are open for admitting the injured miners.

The Shanxi Coking Coal Group is one of China's largest coking coal producers. The Tunlan Coal Mine has an annual production capacity of 5 million tones.

The mine enjoyed a reputation for safe operation, as no accident occurred there in the past decade.


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