Chinese state media reported that 33 miners were trapped after a gas explosion ripped through the shaft in which they were working with the Xinhua News Agency says the condition of those underground isn’t known.
The blast occurred shortly before noon, state media reported. Such accidents are often caused when a flame or electrical spark ignites gas leaking from the coal seam. Ventilation systems are supposed to prevent gas from becoming trapped.
Fifteen miners have been confirmed dead after following the explosion at a coal mine in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing Monday. Eighteen others who were trapped in the mine are still unaccounted for, Xinhua reported.
China’s mining industry has long been among the world’s deadliest, although safety improvements and the closure of smaller, more dangerous mines have reduced the death toll in recent years.
Two of the 35 miners underground at the time managed to escape, according to a statement posted to the Chongqing press office’s official Weibo social media page.
More than 200 rescue workers, including firefighters, police and rescue specialists are at the site, trying to locate and save the missing miners, Xinhua reported.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal but has announced plans to shutter more than 1,000 outdated mines. The head of China’s State Administration of Work Safety said this year that struggling coal mines might be likely to overlook maintenance.