A fire in gold mine in eastern China killed at least 14 workers and trapped eight underground, a state work safety official said on Saturday.
The fire that broke out Friday afternoon at the Lingnan Gold Mine in Zhaoyuan city in eastern Shandong province had been put out but rescuers were still working to free those underground, according to the chief of the state work safety administration's policy law and regulation department. He identified himself by his surname as Li. The state-run Xinhua News Agency said the fire initially trapped 50 workers, but all but the eight had been pulled out as of 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The report said 329 people had been working in the mine.
Of those still trapped underground, rescue workers had made contact with seven of them, Li said. He said there were no serious injuries among the workers who had been rescued.
Li said the fire was caused by an underground cable, and the owner of the mine was in police custody.
China has the world's deadliest mining industry with more than 2,600 people killed in mine accidents last year. Those figures represent a drop from previous years as the government has moved to close down smaller, illegal mines.
This week, 25 miners were killed in two separate accidents when lethal gas seeped into the mines where they were working. Nine workers were killed at a mine Monday in central Henan province, while 16 workers died Tuesday at a mine in southwestern Guizhou province.
The Chinese government has attempted to improve workers' safety, but faced huge obstacles.
Mining deaths jumped again in the first half of this year. Coal mine deaths through June were 1,261, up from 1,175 in the same period last year.
Earlier this month, a spokesman for the work safety administration told the China Daily newspaper the jump was due in part to China's recovery from the economic crisis. Last month, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered mine managers and bosses to accompany workers down into mine shafts in a bid to improve safety.
However, the approach has failed to produce any impact. More than 100 miners have died in the past month; none of those killed were mine bosses or managers - a fact noted with unusual criticism by the typically docile state media.