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China mine blast kills at least 51

BEIJING (AP) — An explosion tore through a coal mine in northeast China, leaving at least 51 miners dead and more than 100 missing, state media reported early today.

Some 220 miners were underground when the blast occurred late Sunday in Qitaihe, a city in Heilongjiang province, the official China News Service said, citing the local coal mine safety administration.

Forty-two miners had been rescued, the news agency said.

It said the cause of the blast was under investigation. A man who answered the telephone at the coal mine declined to comment to The Associated Press.

The official Xinhua News Agency said managers were trying to determine how many miners were still underground.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with explosions, floods and fires killing thousands of workers each year.

Inadequate safety equipment and lax safety rules are often blamed for the mining country's accidents.