Rescuers search for survivors at a coal mine after a gas explosion in Panzhihua in China's Sichuan province Wednesday.

Story highlights

Within an hour of the blast, 104 rescued, city says

Owner of the mine taken into police custody, state media cite sources as saying

Last year, 1,970 people killed in some 1,200 mining accidents, government says

CNN  — 

The death toll from a gas blast at a coal mine in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan rose to 19, with 28 miners still trapped underground, according to the local city government.

A total of 154 miners were working underground when the accident occurred Wednesday at around 6 p.m. at Xiaojiawan Coal Mine, according to Panzhihua city’s official account on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

Within an hour, 104 had been rescued, but three had died en route to the hospital, the city said.

Xinhua identifies the mine as belonging to Zhengjin Industry and Trade Co., Ltd. in Panzhihua.

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 the state-run China Daily newspaper.

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.

Dayu Zhang and Alexis Lai contributed to this report.