December 7, 2007 / 1:05 PM / in 11 years

Bosses detained as china mine blast death toll rises

(Updates death toll, arrests and trial over 2005 mine disaster in paragraphs 1, 5 and 7)

BEIJING, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Police have detained managers and officials at a north China coal mine where a gas blast killed more than 100 people, state media reported on Friday.

The bodies of 105 miners have so far been recovered from the Xinyao mine in coal-rich Shanxi province, which was hit by an explosion late on Wednesday.

Managers did not report the blast until five hours later and instead tried to launch their own rescue operation, which Chinese media said probably increased casualties.

Police were trying to confirm the exact number of people working underground, but it had "seriously exceeded safety limits" and rescuers were searching for more victims, China Central Television said. There were 15 survivors.

The village-run mine was licensed, but initial investigations showed the explosion was caused by mining along a coal seam that had not been authorised for production, Chinese media said.

Police have arrested the mine’s head and legal representative, suspended its licence and frozen its bank accounts, while top safety officials had rushed to the site from Beijing, Xinhua news agency said.

By Friday afternoon, police had placed 33 people "under control" over the accident, Xinhua said.

China has been trying to tighten safety regulations but its coal industry is still the world’s deadliest, claiming close to 5,000 lives last year.

China will soon place on trial 11 defendants accused over a mine disaster in November 2005 that killed 171 people, Xinhua also reported. (Reporting by Guo Shipeng and Chris Buckley, editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)



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