At least 7 die in China coal mine fire; 20 trapped

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BEIJING (AP) — A fire in a coal mine in central China killed at least seven people Tuesday, and search efforts continued into the night for 20 others trapped underground, the state-run news agency reported.

The Xinhua News Agency said underground cables caught fire in the afternoon at the Lisheng coal mine in Xiangtan city in Hunan province.

The owner of the mine and a senior employee were detained, Xinhua said.

The seven bodies were found in a shaft about 160 meters (175 yards) underground, a local official told the news agency. Another 43 miners escaped the fire, which was later put out.

China’s mining industry is the world’s deadliest, with most accidents blamed on poor safety as enterprises scramble to feed the country’s insatiable demand for coal. In November, 108 miners were killed in a coal mine blast in northeast China. It was the country’s deadliest mining accident in two years.

China has been trying to close small mines or absorb them into larger state-owned ones. The Lisheng mine had just 180 workers, Xinhua said.