Explosion rips through coal mine in China, at least 15 dead

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At least 15 people have been killed and 18 others remain unaccounted-for after a gas explosion tore through a coal mine in southwest China, state-run media reports. Rescue operations are underway.

The accident was reported at about 11:33 a.m. local time on Monday after an explosion occurred at the privately-owned Jinshangou Coal Mine, which is located in Laisu Town in Chongqing. A total of 35 miners were working underground.

As of 9;30 p.m., local authorities confirmed that only 2 workers had been hoisted to safety and 15 others were found dead. The other 18 miners remain missing and more than 200 rescue workers are working at the scene to find them.

Safety conditions at mines in China have rapidly improved in recent years, but they continue to be ranked as the world’s most dangerous with 931 deaths in 2015, though some have questioned the accuracy of the count. The Chinese government reported 2,631 fatalities in 2009.

The improvement in safety conditions followed the closure of small mines and requirements that mines are equipped with emergency shelter systems. Those shelters are equipped with machines to produce oxygen, protective walls, and airtight doors to protect workers against toxic gases.

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