A total of 120 miners were working underground at the Xiaojiawan Coal Mine in Panzhihua city when the gas blast occurred, Xinhua news agency reported, quoting the local officials and rescue sources.
Rescue workers lifted 70 of them out of the mine, but three of them later died at one of the seven hospitals where they were taken. The condition of the other 67 was not immediately known.
The three who died in the hospital and another six who died in the mine raised the confirmed death toll as of early Thursday to nine, Xinhua reported. Another 44 remained trapped in the mine and rescue work was continuing to save them, the report said.
The coal mine is owned by Zhengjin Industry and Trade Co., Ltd. in Panzhihua, the report said, adding the gas blast was under investigation and the owner of the mine had been taken into police custody.
Coal mine accidents in China take a heavy toll every year despite stringent safety regulations. Safety experts in the past have conceded many mines operate illegally in the country.
On Wednesday, seven workers were rescued after being trapped for nearly 48 hours in an underground coal mine in northern Shanxi province. They were trapped when the mine's roof collapsed Monday.
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