22 coal miners trapped in a northeastern China mine after a fire broke out Tuesday were successfully rescued, multiple news organizations reported.
Chinese state media outlet Xinhua said that an accident explosion occurred at the private, unlicensed coal mine in Qitaihe City at about 9 p.m., leaving the workers trapped underground in a shaft. Efforts to recover the workers were stalled by debris that collected in tunnels after the blast.
Deaths in Chinese mines have been reduced since 2000, German news service Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) said, with the Chinese State Administration of Work Safety data showing that 598 miners died in China in 2015 compared to 1049 in 2013. The DPA said it is unclear if those numbers are accurate or if the reported drop is linked to a decline in coal production in the country.
DPA and Xinhua reported that two managers connected with the mine are being questioned by authorities.
The cause of the blast remains unclear, The Associated Press (AP) reported, but noted “such incidents usually occur when unventilated coal gas is ignited by a spark or open flame.”