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56 die, 92 missing in China blast

From CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz

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Poor safety practices cause thousands of mining deaths each year in China.
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- A gas explosion in a coal mine in central China late Wednesday has killed 56 workers, and the fate of more than 90 others trapped inside the mine is unknown, Chinese authorities say.

The explosion occurred about 10:40 p.m. Wednesday (2:40 p.m. GMT) at the Daping mine in China's Henan province, the State Labor Safety Commission in Beijing reported.

"The site of the accident has been cordoned off and rescue efforts are still ongoing," said an official at the mine's executive office, who only identified herself as Ms Si.

About 200 of the 400 workers in the mine at the time of the blast escaped, the agency said.

But at least 56 bodies had been found, and another 92 workers were unaccounted for Thursday morning.

"We didn't hear anything last night, as the residential area is about two kilometers away from the mine," Si said.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the explosion.

China's mining industry relies heavily on poorly maintained, outdated technology and has among the world's highest death rates.

In July, authorities said 2,644 people were killed in coal mine accidents in the first half of 2004.

Beijing has tried to crack down on unsafe conditions nationwide, but authorities say local officials leave many questionable mines open in order to keep unemployment low.


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