Massive Coal Mine Fire in Southwest China Kills 16

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China – The massive fire that occurred in a coal mine in Southwest China's Guizhou province on Sunday has killed at least 16 people, local officials said. 

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The fire broke out at the Shanjiaoshu Coal Mine at around 00.10 GMT the Panzhou City government said in a notice posted to its website on Sunday night.

"It was preliminarily determined that the conveyor belt caught fire, causing 16 people to be trapped," it added, with no further details on what was damaged or how the fire began.

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Emergency personnel extinguished the blaze and temperatures at the site returned to normal, but after preliminary verification, 16 people had no vital signs, the notice said.

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The Panzhou City mine is about 3,600 kilometers southwest of the capital Beijing.

China, the world's largest emitter of pollutants that cause climate change, already operates thousands of coal mines, despite Beijing's pledge to peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Although safety standards in the country's mining sector have improved in recent decades, accidents are still common in the industry, often due to lax enforcement of protocols, especially at the simplest sites. 

Last year, 245 people died in 168 accidents, according to official data.

An explosion at a coal mine in northern China's Shaanxi province last month killed 11 people, nine of whom were trapped inside. Two others managed to get out of the mine before succumbing to their injuries.

In February, a coal mine partially collapsed in the remote and sparsely populated Alxa League in northern Inner Mongolia after a 180-meter (590-foot) slope collapsed. 

The incident left dozens of people and vehicles buried under piles of rubble, but authorities did not reveal the death toll for months.

In a sign of the severity of the incident, Chinese President Xi Jinping at the time ordered authorities to search for and rescue missing people and protect the safety of life and property, as well as overall social stability.

Authorities deployed hundreds of personnel and more than 100 pieces of equipment as part of the rescue operation, according to a local government statement. 

In December, about 40 people were working underground when a gold mine in the northwestern region of Xinjiang collapsed.

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