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China mine blast toll mounts to 18, rescue work on

The toll from a coal mine explosion in southwest China rose to 18, after three more bodies were pulled out on Tuesday, while rescuers raced against time to locate the 15 people listed missing a day after the mishap.

Around 35 miners were inside the mine in Chongqing Municipality when the explosion occured on Monday morning. Fifteen miners were still missing and rescue work was underway, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Two workers escaped unharmed, leaving 33 trapped in a pit at Jinshangou Coal Mine, Yongchuan District.

The police were looking into possible misconduct by the mine's management team, said Luo Qingquan, head of the district government.

More than 400 rescuers worked through the night, digging through debris to avoid secondary disasters.  

When the explosion occurred, Tao Puzhang, 60, working on his land, located 500 metres from the mine, heard a loud noise and felt the ground under his feet shaking.

Liu Fuxiu, a winch operator with the mine, working 40 metres from the entrance to the pit, was knocked off her feet by the blast and received injuries on the face and back. "My injuries are nothing. I have a relative down the pit. I hope he is alive," she said.

Following the blast, Chongqing has ordered a safety overhaul and temporarily closed all collieries with less than 90,000 tonnes of annual output.  The mine has a designed annual output of 60,000 tonnes, according to its licence.
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