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Official: 9 Dead China Mine Blast

May 9, 2001

BEIJING (AP) _ A gas explosion at a coal mine killed at least nine miners in northeastern China and a raging fire was blocking rescue efforts for 45 others who were missing and feared dead, rescue officials said Wednesday.

Hopes were dim that anyone survived after the gas explosion early Tuesday started a fire that engulfed much of the mine near Hegang, said officials at the Lanshan No. 1 Coal Mine in Heilongjiang province.

Rescuers believe they know the location of the missing 45 miners but can’t reach them because of the fire.

China’s coal mines are the world’s deadliest, with thousands of deaths each year in fires, cave-ins and explosions often blamed on inadequate ventilation and safety equipment.

More than 4,800 deaths were reported last year, and still more fatalities may have been concealed by mine operators. The government has been trying to shut down hundreds of small, unlicensed mines that operate without even basic safety equipment.

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