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Mine blast kills 21, traps 16

world Updated: Oct 16, 2010 23:23 IST

AP
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Rescuers battled dangerous levels of gas, tons of coal dust and the risk of falling rocks as they worked to free 16 miners trapped by an explosion at a mine in central China early Saturday. Twenty-one miners were confirmed killed.

The blast happened as the world still was celebrating Chile's dramatically successful rescue of 33 miners, trapped more than two months.

Rescuers have located the 16 Chinese miners but must clear tons of coal dust from the mine shaft to reach them, the state-run Xinhua News Agency cited a rescue spokesman as saying. It wasn't clear if the miners were alive or how far underground they were trapped. The blast unleashed more than 2,500 tons of coal dust, an engineer for one of the mine's parent companies, Du Bo, told Xinhua. The report said ventilation has resumed in the mining pit but gas levels remain high.

The gas level inside the mine was 40 per cent, far higher than the normal level of near 1 per cent, China Central Television reported. The gas wasn't specified, but methane is a common cause of mine blasts, and coal dust is explosive.

The more than 70 rescuers on the scene also must clear chunks of coal loosened by the blast that fell into the shaft, the state-run broadcaster said.

Twenty bodies had been retrieved by the afternoon, Xinhua said. State media say another gas blast at the same mine two years ago killed 23 people.