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China Mine Blast Kills 66; 17 Miners Still Missing

Chinese state media say the death toll in a mine explosion in Xinjiang region has increased to 66, with 17 miners still missing.

Xinhua news agency reported Monday that four of 87 miners escaped the early-morning blast at Shenlong Coal Mine in Fukang County. Xinhua said the explosion was caused by a buildup of gas in the shaft. Local authorities say it is unlikely the missing miners survived.

The regional government has asked other area coal mine operators to suspend production and make needed safety improvements.

China's coal mines are the world's most dangerous, with explosions, floods and fires killing thousands of workers each year. Inadequate safety equipment and lax safety rules are often blamed for the accidents.