Rescuers were searching for 166 workers who were trapped in a coal mine in central China yesterday after a massive explosion tore through the shaft in what could be the country's worst mining accident in recent years.
Another 127 miners, many who were working near the entrance of the state-owned Chenjiashan coal mine in Shaanxi Province, managed to escape after the early morning blast, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The accident came just weeks after another explosion in central Henan Province killed 148 workers, the most fatal since 2000.
In Shaanxi, 41 workers were hospitalized yesterday, five with serious injuries, Xinhua said. Many were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, it said.
Witnesses said they saw "huge amounts of thick smoke pouring from the mine's ventilation vents," hampering rescue efforts, according to the Web site of the Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper.
Xinhua said the explosion occurred when 293 workers were underground and was centered around coal pits 8km from the mine entrance.