Thirty-five people have been confirmed dead in a coal mine accident in north China's Hebei province that was covered up for almost three months, provincial authorities said on Friday.
The accident happened July 14 at Lijiawa Coal Mine in Yuxian County, when explosives illegally stored in the pit ignited, killing 34 miners and a rescue worker.
Most of the victims were migrants from the southwest part of the country, investigators said.
The mine owners hid the bodies and silenced the next of kin of the victims with cash compensation and threats. Some village and county officials also collaborated with the mine owners in the cover up effort, said Hu Chunhua, acting governor of Hebei.
The cover-up infuriated witnesses and the victims' families, some of who filed complaints with the State Administration of Work Safety and sought justice by posting the truth on the Internet.
Their complaints prompted the central government to investigate the accident, which was revealed to the public Oct 7.
Hu said 25 officials had been sacked for the cover-up, including three top officials in Yuxian county, the local work safety chief, village heads and police officers who harboured the mine owners. Twenty-two of them were prosecuted.
Police have also detained the mine owners.
Investigators said the mine was one of the many illegal mines of the owners.