China mine blasts kill at least 36

BEIJING, China The official Xinhua News Agency said 31 miners were killed in a gas explosion before dawn Sunday at a private mine near Dengfeng city in Henan province in central China. Rescuers were searching for nine others.

Xinhua quoted a government official as saying 108 people were underground when the accident happened and that 68 escaped.

A woman who answered the phone at the Dengfeng Work Safety Bureau confirmed the accident but had no other details. She refused to give her name, as is common among Chinese officials.

Xinhua also reported that five miners were killed and 26 were still missing after a coal mine fire Saturday in Hegang city in Heilongjiang province in northeast China.

It said 12 miners managed to escape, but rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and high gas density in the mine shaft.

Calls to local government offices Sunday in Hegang went unanswered.

China's mines are the world's deadliest, with explosions, cave-ins and floods killing nearly 3,800 people last year.

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