A gas explosion at a Chinese coal mine has left at least 18 people dead and two more missing after what Chinese officials are calling “illegal” mining activities.
The gas explosion occurred Tuesday morning at a small coal mine in the northwestern Chinese city of Shizuishan as 20 miners were working underground, Chinese state media reported.
Xinhua cited an initial investigation in blaming illegal mining for the explosion, though the state media outlet did not provide further details.
During a news conference Wednesday, local officials said representatives from Linli Coal Mining Co. Ltd., which owns the mine, had been taken into police custody.
Wu Yuguo, vice mayor of Shizuishan City, said heavy gas concentrations and the collapse of the mine shaft had created difficulties for rescue workers.
Despite the dangerous conditions, firefighters and coal mine rescue specialists continued their search for the two missing mine workers Wednesday.
China has made great strides in improving mine safety, but its mines are still the deadliest in the world.
Accidents at Chinese mines routinely make national news, though they continue to happen as bosses disregard safety standards in the quest for higher profits.
Official government figures put the annual number of mining related deaths in China at less than 1,000, but rights groups claim the numbers are underreported and are actually much higher.