At least 35 people were killed and 44 others trapped after a gas explosion ripped through a coalmine in central China on early Tuesday morning. The victims had allegedly been engaged in illegal mining in the underground mine.
A total of 93 people were working in the mine in Pingdingshan city in Henan province when the blast took place in the early hours, the State Administration of Work Safety said.
Only 14 miners were able to escape, it said.
Director of the State Administration of Work Safety, Lou Lin, arrived at the accident site to oversee rescue work and investigate the accident.
"A preliminary investigation showed illegal mining was to blame for the accident," the official Xinhua news agency reported.
It quoted a spokesman for the city's Communist Party committee as saying that the pit where the blast occurred was undergoing renovation and had not been authorised by the city government to resume operations.
Local authorities have frozen the colliery's bank account and its owners are under police surveillance.Coalmine disasters claimed 1,699 lives in Henan province in the first eight months of this year. China, the world's largest coal producer, has a dismal work safety record with thousands of miners dying every year in mine accidents.