A fire in a coal mine in central China killed at least 18 workers, and search efforts continued for nine others trapped underground, state media reported on Wednesday. The Xinhua News Agency said underground cables caught fire on Tuesday afternoon at the Lisheng coal mine in Xiangtan city in Hunan province.
The owner of the mine and a senior employee were detained, Xinhua said.
Nine more bodies were recovered Wednesday about 1,800 feet (540 meters) underground, bringing the death toll to 18, it said. Seventy workers were underground when the fire started and 43 managed to escape, it said. Rescue workers were searching for the remaining nine, who were thought to be on another mining platform at least 2,000 feet (600 meters) underground, Xinhua said. The fire was extinguished and the ventilation system was restored Tuesday, so there was a chance that some of the nine were still alive, it said.
China's mining industry is the world's deadliest, with most accidents blamed on poor safety as enterprises scramble to feed the country's voracious demand for coal. In November, 108 miners were killed in a coal mine blast in northeast China. It was the country's deadliest mining accident in two years.
China has been trying to close small mines or absorb them into larger state-owned ones. The Lisheng mine had just 180 workers, Xinhua said.