Asia-Pacific

Pit blast kills 17 miners in Hunan, China

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An explosion at a coal mine in China's Hunan province has left 17 people dead and one injured, state media reports.

Officials said explosives stored in the pit were ignited, releasing clouds of poisonous gas through the privately-run Shuguang mine in Rucheng county.

No other miners were missing after the blast, said the Xinhua news agency, and rescue work was reported to be over.

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

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

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.

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