Managers sacked after China blast

Three senior officials have been sacked at a coal mine in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi after an explosion that killed 74 workers, BBC reported.

Tunlan mine's chief, its top engineer and the official in charge of safety were dismissed, state media reported.

All trapped miners have been rescued and an investigation is under way into Sunday's blast - China's worst mine disaster in a year, Xinhua said.

China has the world's deadliest mining industry, with 3,200 deaths last year.

There were 436 men at work when the explosion ripped through the mine at about 0220 local time on Sunday - but most managed to escape, Xinhua reported.
Some 114 miners remain in hospital, with five in a critical condition.

Most of the injured were being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, said doctors in Gujiao city.

Exposure to the gas, which is odourless and colourless, is potentially fatal.

The cause of the blast is under investigation but initial reports suggested it was a gas explosion.

The mine belongs to the state-run Shanxi Coking Group, China's largest producer of coking coal, and had had an excellent safety record until now.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Beijing says the accident comes as little surprise to the mining community.
China's mines are the most dangerous in the world and often money takes priority over safety because mines are vital to China's economy, with two-thirds of its energy needs fuelled by coal, our correspondent says.

The government has promised for years to improve mine safety, and one report said more than 1,000 illegal mines were closed last year.

Beijing says safety is improving, with the official death toll from coal mining accidents falling by 15% in 2008 compared with the previous year.

Xinhua also reported that the number of accidents had fallen by 19% to 413,700 last year.

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