Explosion at illegally-operated Xinjiang coal mine kills 21

15 December 2013

Twenty-one miners were killed in a gas explosion at an illegally-operated coal mine in the north-western region of Xinjiang on Friday morning, the official media has confirmed.

The Baiyanggou coal mine, located about 100 kilometres west of the capital Urumqi, had been closed by the authorities in June for safety violations but had opened again before all the problems had been fixed, the State Administration of Work Safety said in a statement Friday.

Despite repeated calls by the central authorities for improved workplace safety, most recently by Premier Li Keqiang on 6 December, lax enforcement of regulations and safety standards on the ground means that accidents and deaths are still widespread and commonplace.

Just the day before the Xinjiang explosion, ten people died when the roof of an illegally constructed storeroom collapsed in the northern province of Hebei. And at least 16 people, including three young children, were killed in a fire at an agricultural wholesale market in Shenzhen in the early hours of Wednesday morning. A family of six, who were sleeping at the market, reportedly lost their lives in the tragedy.

In the coal mining industry alone, 1,384 workers were killed in accidents last year, according to official Chinese figures, down from 1,973 in 2011. However, the authorities openly admit that many smaller accidents are covered-up by mine owners or simply not reported.

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