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Official sacked over coal mine blast as rescue continues

AN official has been sacked after a coal mine gas blast killed 11 construction workers in north China's Shanxi Province. Rescuers were still searching for three missing workers today.

The explosion took place at the entrance of a mine shaft under construction at the Xingguang Coal Industry Co. Ltd. in Heshun County in Jinzhong City about 11:10 am yesterday, as 16 people were working in the area. Two, who were more than 100 meters from the entrance, escaped unharmed.

It is unknown how many workers were working underground at the time.

Guo Xingchuan, a county head assistant in charge of the coal sector, was dismissed from his post last night, a government spokesman said today.

Rescuers at the shaft have cleared away debris near the entrance and forced a 300-meter-long pipe into the shaft to increase ventilation, in preparation for an underground search.

The 16 workers came from a coal mine construction company in neighboring Hebei Province, rescuers said. The shaft was being renovated and enlarged, and had yet to be put into operation.

The mine, containing a reserve of 203 million tonnes, belongs to the Shanxi International Electricity Group Limited Company, which began approved infrastructure construction in May to increase annual production to 1.2 million tonnes from the present 300,000 tonnes.

Work safety authorities are investigating the cause of the accident.


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