Asia-Pacific

Dozens die in central China mine blast

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At least 46 have been killed in a mine explosion in China's Henan province, state media report.

Rescue workers rescued 26 trapped workers after the blast at a mine near Pingdingshan city, Xinhua news reported.

State television said a store of gunpowder kept underground had detonated at 0140 (1740 GMT on Sunday).

China's mines are among the world's most dangerous, with thousands of miners killed in accidents every year.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Shanghai says that six of those rescued were badly burned and in a critical condition, and there is concern that there could be others missing.

'Illegal'

China's government said the mine had been operating illegally since its permit ran out on 6 June.

Authorities had cut the power off, but the owners had managed to find a way to reconnect it, our correspondent adds.

The provincial governor has gone to the mine to take charge of the rescue operation.

According to official figures, 2,631 coal miners died in 1,616 mine accidents in China in 2009, down 18% from the previous year.

But independent labour groups say the figure could be much higher, as accidents are covered up to prevent mine closures.

Most accidents are blamed on failures to follow safety rules, including a lack of required ventilation or fire control equipment.

The government has stepped up efforts to improve safety in the mining industry in recent years, by enforcing regulations and taking measures to close unregulated mines.

Coal-generated power accounts for about 70% of China's electricity needs.

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