BEIJING (AP) — Rescuers searched Thursday for 28 miners trapped for more than a day in a coal mine after an explosion that killed at least 19 people in China's deadliest mining accident in nearly a year.
Police detained the owners of the Xiaojiawan coal mine following Wednesday evening's blast in coal-rich Panzhihua city in the southwestern province of Sichuan, and checked for safety violations.
There were 154 miners working at the mine when it exploded, and 107 survivors have been pulled to the surface, the State Administration of Work Safety said in a statement.
Rescuers recovered the bodies of 16 miners who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, state-run Central China Television said. Three other miners died at a hospital after being pulled to the surface, CCTV said. It did not give the cause of death for those miners.
It was the deadliest accident since 35 were killed in a blast at a mine in Yunnan province in November 2011.
The government agency said the rescue work is dangerous because of high underground temperatures, dense carbon monoxide, a lack of ventilation and narrow tunnel access.
The mine is owned by Zhengjin Industry and Trade Co. Ltd. and the owners were in police custody for investigation, the Panzhihua city government said in a statement posted on its official microblogging site.
Coal mine accidents are common in China, where work safety rules are often ignored. Last year, 1,973 miners were killed in coal mine accidents in the country, but that was down 19 percent from the previous year as authorities continue to beef up safety measures.
The State Administration of Work Safety said last week that it planned to close more than 600 small coal mines — considered more dangerous than larger mines — this year to further reduce fatalities.
With an annual output of 90,000 tons, Xiaojaiwan is considered a small mine.