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North China gas blast kills eight: state media
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 14, 2011

An explosion ripped through a fast-food restaurant in China Monday, killing at least eight people including a child and shattering windows up to three kilometres away, officials and state media said.

Among the victims were children who were passing by the building on their way to school at the time of the blast, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Photographs taken outside the high-rise building in the northern city of Xian where the explosion occurred showed shattered glass and piles of debris on the road outside the building, where bodies covered with blue sheets lay on stretchers.

Xinhua quoted local officials and witnesses as saying the blast appeared to be a gas explosion at a restaurant on the first floor of the building which served hamburgers cooked in a traditional local style.

"Thirteen people were sent to our hospital, and three died -- two male adults and a three-year-old girl. One is in a critical condition," a doctor surnamed Han at the Shaanxi Renmin Hospital told AFP.

Another 19 people injured in the blast were sent to the Xian Gaoxin Hospital and four of those had died, a nurse surnamed Wu told AFP. The condition of the other 15 people was not clear.

The body of an eighth victim, a woman, was found in the ruins of the restaurant, in an office tower in the Gaoxin district of Xian, Xinhua said.

Photos posted online showed a number of ambulances and fire engines on the street outside the building, called Jiatian International Mansion.

Other photos showed plumes of smoke coming out of the building and firemen walking over piles of debris that had been blasted onto the footpath.

The explosion appeared to have shattered the windows of the first two floors of the tower, with glass, mangled parts of the building and other debris littering the ground.

The force of the blast blew away a signboard at a nearby bus stop and broken window panes were seen two to three kilometres (1.2 miles to 1.9 miles) from the site, Xinhua said.

An official at the local public security bureau told AFP that emergency workers were still attending to casualties and they did not yet know the total number of dead and injured.

Police said the exact cause of the explosion was still under investigation.

China has a notoriously poor record of workplace accidents, blamed on widespread disregard for basic safety measures as companies chase profits.

A coal mining accident in the southwest province of Yunnan last week killed at least 34 workers, with hopes fading of finding alive nine others still trapped underground, officials said Monday.

Earlier this month, two vehicles carrying explosives detonated in the southwest province of Guizhou killing at least seven people, seriously injuring 20 and causing several nearby buildings to collapse.

The two vehicles were transporting 70 tonnes of explosives, state media reported.

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China mine manager faked blast escape: official
Beijing (AFP) Nov 14, 2011 - Police have detained the duty manager at an illegal coal mine in southwest China after he staged a fake escape from an accident that killed 34 workers, an official said Monday.

Qi Guming smudged coal dust on his face and told investigators he had used a tunnel to escape from the pit, where another nine workers remain trapped four days after the accident, a local official told AFP.

According to China National Radio, Qi was actually asleep and not inside the mine when a blast of coal and gas took place early Thursday morning in the mine in China's Yunnan province.

He was supposed to be the duty manager for the night shift.

"Qi Guming wasn't in the mine when the accident happened," a spokeswoman for the city of Qujing, where the mine is located, told AFP by phone.

"Afterward, he made his face dirty and lied to the rescue group. The police have made this clear," added the official, surnamed Zhou.

Coal mine accidents are common in China, where work safety is often neglected by bosses seeking a quick profit.

To try to minimise accidents, authorities ruled recently that at least one manager must be in the pit when work is going on.

The Yunnan mine was hit Thursday by what authorities called a coal and gas outburst -- a sudden and violent ejection of coal, gas and rock from a coal face -- trapping 43 workers underground.

Authorities said the gas leak had hampered rescue operations at the mine.

"Nine remain missing and there is only a slim chance we will find them alive," an official at the Yunnan Administration of Work Safety told AFP by telephone Monday, without giving his name.

Last year, 2,433 people died in coal mining accidents in the country, according to official statistics -- a rate of more than six workers per day -- but labour rights groups say the true figure may be much higher.

The accident in Yunnan came days after a rock blast in a coal mine in the central province of Henan trapped dozens of workers underground, many of whom were later rescued, although 10 were killed.

Last month, a gas explosion at a state-owned coal mine in neighbouring Hunan province left 29 miners dead.


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China sentences three to death over hotel fire
Beijing (AFP) Nov 13, 2011
A court in China has handed down the death penalty to three people for setting fire to a bar which then spread to a budget hotel, killing 11 people and leaving two others injured, state media reported. The court in the northeastern province of Jilin found the three guilty of arson and sentenced them to death Saturday for setting fire to a basement bar in Tonghua city in May due to a row they ... read more

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