Rescuer workers gather near the entrance to the state-owned Xialiuchong Coal Mine in Hengyang city in southern China's Hunan province Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. A gas explosion at the coal mine in central China killed 29 workers, Chinese authorities said Sunday. Six other miners survived Saturday evening's blast, China's State Administration of Work Safety said in a statement on its website. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT
This file photo shows rescue workers gather at the site of an earlier mine blast in  southern China's Hunan province. - File Photo

BEIJING: A gas blast in a southwest China coal mine left 17 people dead Wednesday, state press said of the latest accident in the dangerous industry.

The explosion occurred at the Shangchang Coal Mine in Yunnan province on Wednesday afternoon when 66 miners were in the shaft, Xinhua news agency said.

Forty-nine miners were able to safely escape the mine with their lives, while the other 17 were pronounced dead, the report said.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

China is the world's biggest consumer of coal, relying on the fossil fuel for about 70 per cent of its growing energy needs.

But its mines are among the deadliest in the world due to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency. Accidents are common because safety is often neglected by bosses seeking quick profits.

According to the latest official figures, 1,973 people died in coal mining accidents in China in 2011, a 19 per cent fall on the previous year.

But labour rights groups say the actual death toll is likely to be much higher, partly due to under-reporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their financial losses and avoid punishment.

Late last month, 23 people were killed in a gas explosion in a coal mine in Guizhou provinces, which borders Yunnan.


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