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Death toll rises to 41 in China mine blast

By Elizabeth Yuan, CNN
updated 3:34 AM EDT, Fri August 31, 2012
Rescuers search for survivors at a coal mine after a gas explosion in Panzhihua in China's Sichuan province Wednesday.
Rescuers search for survivors at a coal mine after a gas explosion in Panzhihua in China's Sichuan province Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: More miners found dead
  • So far, 107 miners have been rescued, city says
  • Carbon monoxide and searing temperatures hamper rescue efforts
  • Last year, 1,970 people were killed in some 1,200 mining accidents, government says

(CNN) -- The death toll from the coal mine blast in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan rose Friday afternoon to 41, as rescuers tried to reach five trapped miners whose fates were unknown, according to the local government.

So far, 107 miners have been rescued from the Xiaojiawan Coal Mine, most of them within an hour of the Wednesday evening gas explosion, according to Panzhihua city's official account on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

In all, 154 miners were working underground when the accident occurred.

Carbon monoxide and searing temperatures hindered rescue efforts.

"The temperature in the pit is very high, and the air is not very good. The rescuers need respirators to stay longer," state-run China Daily quoted Tang Zhong, a rescuer, as saying.

Roof collapses within tunnels further hampered access, said Fu Jianhua, director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, according to the paper.

The mine belongs to Zhengjin Industry and Trade Co., Ltd. in Panzhihua, according to state-run media.

The owner of the mine has been taken into police custody, pending an investigation, state media cited sources as saying.

China has an estimated 12,000 coal mines, according to state media, and the profession remains a deadly one.

Last year, 1,970 people were killed in some 1,200 mining accidents, State Administrative of Work Safety spokesman Huang Yi said at a news conference last week, according to China Daily.

As of August 20, more than 500 coal mine accidents occurred this year, claiming 832 lives, according to the administration's data cited by China Daily.

CNN's Tian Shao contributed to this report.

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