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Explosion in illegal coal mine kills 16

SHARE Explosion in illegal coal mine kills 16

BEIJING — An explosion in a coal mine that reopened illegally after being closed for safety reasons killed at least 16 miners, state media and an official said Monday.

Rescuers were trying to dig out another 77 miners missing after the explosion Sunday at the mine in Xuzhou, a city in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Thirteen workers have been rescued.

Premier Zhu Rongji ordered "an all-out effort" to save the trapped miners and the government again demanded the closure of unlicensed coal mines, saying they were as dangerous as "time bombs," Xinhua said.

Authorities closed the Xuzhou mine June 15 because it lacked "all necessary safety facilities," but it reopened this month, said a local official who identified himself only as Jiang.

Police have detained the mine owner, Jiang said by telephone.

The government sent its chief official for industrial safety, Zhang Baoming, to Xuzhou after the explosion.

Last week, Zhang had called for urgent measures to improve safety after explosives stored illegally in a northern Chinese blew up, killing at least 69 people.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with thousands of deaths a year.

This month, 21 miners were reported killed when a mine flooded in the northeastern province of Jilin.