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Death toll in central China colliery fire rises to 25

THE death toll from yesterday's coal mine fire in central China's Hunan Province climbed to 25 as rescuers continued their search for more trapped miners today.

At least three more workers were trapped in the pit of Lisheng Coal Mine in Tanjiashan Town of Xiangtan County, a spokesman with the county government said.

Underground cables caught fire in the mine at around 2 pm yesterday, when more than 70 miners were working in the shaft. Forty-three managed to escape and at least 28 were trapped.

Rescuers retrieved nine bodies late yesterday and another 16 early today, the emergency rescue headquarters said in a statement at noon.

Rescuers had expected some survivors after the flames were put out and ventilation system was restored yesterday.

"But rescue work was extremely difficult, with too much toxic gas in the shaft after the fire," said Wang Shuhe, deputy head of State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.

Wang arrived at the site today to oversee rescue work and the investigation into the cause of the disaster.

Family members were still waiting for news in a hut near the entry to the pit. Most were pale and too distraught to say anything.

"I till hope there's a miracle, that some of them will walk out live," said a white-haired man whose son was one of the missing. He turned down a lunch box a mine worker offered him. "I have no appetite," he said.

Lisheng is a privately-run coal mine with 180 employees. It is undergoing technical upgrading to double annual output to 60,000 tons.


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