Beijing (AFP) - Fifteen miners are confirmed dead and 18 missing after a coal mine explosion in southwest China Monday, state media reported, the latest mining disaster in the country.
More than 200 rescue workers including firefighters, armed police and mine experts are searching shafts at the Jinshangou mine in the town of Laisu in the Chongqing Municipality's Yongchuan district, Xinhua news agency reported.
It said 35 miners were working underground when the gas explosion ripped through the mine in the morning and just two managed to escape.
All coal mines in the municipality have been ordered to stop production for safety checks following the blast at the privately-owned mine, which is licensed to produce 60,000 tons of coal a year.
China is the world's largest coal producer and deadly accidents are common.
In September at least 18 people were killed after a mine explosion in the northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
In March 19 people died in a coal mine accident in the northern province of Shanxi.
Officials say the number dying annually in the country's mines has fallen substantially in the past decade, to fewer than 1,000 a year.
But some rights groups argue the actual figures are significantly higher due to under-reporting.