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Gas burst in SW China's unlicensed coal mine kills 20

(Xinhua)

08:51, November 11, 2011

A rescuer prepares to enter a pit in an effort to find miners who were trapped after a gas leak at at a coal mine near the city of Qujing, Yunnan province, Thursday Nov 10, 2011. As of 3:40 pm Thursday, 23 people remain trapped. [Photo/Xinhua]

QUJING, Yunnan, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Killing 20 miners and trapping another 23, a powerful gas burst in an illegally-operated coal mine in southwest China on Thursday brought about the second deadly Chinese coal mine disaster in a week, raising the alarm for mining safety in the country.

Ventilation machines are pumping excessive methane gas out from the shaft while hundreds of rescuers take turns to brave high levels of gas, coal dust and debris into the pit to find survivors, at Sizhuang Coal Mine in the county of Shizong near Qujing city, Yunnan province.

"The rescue is difficult because the gas levels remain high and may lead to an explosion at any time," Tan Xiaopeng, a fire control official in charge of the rescue told Xinhua reporters who reached the scene over rugged roads ten hours after the accident.

Coal dust that was forced out of the shaft by the powerful burst covered the ground for 10 meters around the pit. The area was cordoned off by police while 30 ambulances parked inside.

Women sat on the ground wailing while other relatives of the miners paced anxiously nearby.

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