China coal mine explosion kills 17 workers

BEIJING, May 30, 2010 (AFP) - An explosion at a colliery in central China has killed 17 workers, a provincial official said Sunday.

The blast happened on Saturday in Hunan province's Rucheng county, an official with the provincial work safety bureau, who refused to be named, told AFP.

"Rescue work has ended," he said, without providing further details.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the explosion happened inside the pit where dynamite was being stored and there was also a build-up of poisonous gas.

A total of 18 people were working underground at the time, and one survived with injuries, Xinhua said.

Police and work safety officials are investigating the cause of the blast, the report said.

Around 2,600 people were killed last year in China's vast mining industry due mainly to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency, according to official figures.

Earlier this month, 21 workers were killed in a gas blast at a colliery in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

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