BEIJING -- A gas explosion tore through a central Chinese coal mine today, trapping at least 187 miners, the government said.
The accident occurred in the state-owned Chenjiashan coal mine in Shaanxi province at 7:20 a.m. when more than 200 workers were underground, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The news agency did not give an exact number of miners in the shaft.
By 9 a.m., about 80 miners had been rescued, Xinhua said.
A man who answered the telephone at the government office of Yao County, where the mine is located, confirmed that there had been an accident but refused to provide any more details. He said the accident was being investigated.
During its noon newscast, state television said the explosion caused "big casualties," but did not elaborate.
China's mines are the world's most dangerous, with thousands of deaths reported every year because of explosions, fires, cave-ins, and flooding often blamed on lax safety rules and lack of required equipment.
Last month, a massive explosion in the Daping Mine in central Henan province left 148 people dead. It was sparked after mine operators failed to realize that extending the mine's shaft would greatly increase its gas level.