updated 7/3/2005 5:12:12 AM ET 2005-07-03T09:12:12

A gas explosion at an illegal coal mine in central China killed 19 workers, the official Xinhua News Agency said Sunday.

Thirty-four miners were underground when the accident occurred at Jiajiapu Coal Mine in Shanxi province Saturday, the report said. Fifteen workers escaped unharmed. The mine was operating without official permits, it said.

China’s mines are the world’s most dangerous with fires, floods and other mishaps killing workers nearly every day. Lax safety rules and the lack of proper safety equipment are often to blame.

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