BEIJING -- An explosion tore through a coal mine in northern China yesterday, killing at least 74 workers, the government said, the third disaster in recent weeks involving scores of miners.
The latest accident highlights the Chinese government's continuing battle with mine safety despite repeated crackdowns and pledges by the leadership to improve conditions.
Last year, more than 6,000 miners were killed in fires, floods, cave-ins, and explosions, making China's shafts the world's deadliest. Corruption, lax safety rules, and poor equipment are among the factors often blamed for the accidents.
Yesterday's explosion occurred at the privately run Liuguantun Colliery in Tangshan, a city in Hebei Province, when 186 miners were underground, said an official with the Tangshan Coal Mine and Safety Bureau who would give only his surname, Zhang.
Zhang said 82 miners escaped on their own and 32 were immediately rescued, but three of those later died. The bodies of 71 other miners had been recovered by early today.
The government has shut down thousands of unsafe mines and punished mine owners who put profits ahead of lives. But China's enormous need for energy, stemming from its booming economy, has complicated the issue.
Mine accidents are reported on a near-daily basis, some involving huge death tolls. In February in northeastern Liaoning Province, an explosion killed 214 miners.
On Tuesday, rescuers recovered the body of the last of 171 miners killed in a Nov. 27 blast in Heilongjiang Province.