BEIJING, China (CNN) — Rescue operations were under way at a mine in eastern China’s Henan province, where at least 35 people had died and 44 were missing after an explosion early Tuesday, state-run media reported.
The blast occurred about 1 a.m. (1 p.m. ET Monday) at a township coal mine near Pingdingshan City, the State Administration of Work Safety said on its Web site Tuesday morning, China Daily reported. Fourteen people were known to have survived.
Henan Gov. Guo Gengmao went to the scene to oversee the rescue operation, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Pingdingshan City is about 460 miles (740 km) south-southeast of Beijing.
In 2008, 3,215 died in China’s coal mines, down about 15 percent from 2007, the Administration of Work Safety reported. China closed 1,054 illegal coal mines in 2008, but government figures show almost 80 percent of the country’s 16,000 mines are illegal.
Luo Lin, head of the Administration of Work Safety, said Saturday that China would take measures to close 1,000 small coal mines this year, in an effort to improve work safety and mine management, Xinhua reported.