Death Toll Climbs To 37 in China Mine Explosion

BEIJING, China (CNN) — Rescue operations unfolded at a mine in eastern China on Wednesday, following a gas explosion a day earlier that killed at least 37 people and left dozens missing, state-run media reported.

Search teams were looking for 42 miners who remain trapped after Tuesday’s accident, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing a spokesman for the Henan Provincial Bureau of Work Safety.

The blast occurred about 1 a.m. (1 p.m. ET Monday) at a township coal mine near Pingdingshan City. Fourteen people were known to have survived.

Two government officials were dismissed after the explosion, Xinhua reported. Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang headed a delegation from Beijing to the site.

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 State 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.

Over the weekend, Luo Lin, head of the Administration of Work Safety, said China would take measures to close 1,000 small coal mines this year, to improve work safety and mine management, Xinhua reported.

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