China Construction Site Gas Blast Kills 42

December 23, 2005 12:00 am Last Updated: December 23, 2005 12:00 am

BEIJING — A gas blast at a construction site in China 's southwestern province of Sichuan has killed at least 42 people, state media said on Friday, the latest statistic in a grim series of workplace disasters.

Eleven were injured in the explosion on Thursday in a highway tunnel under construction between the cities of Dujiangyan and Wenchuan. Most of the victims were construction workers, the report said.

The exact number of casualties was unclear, with search and rescue operations still under way.

China is known for its poor workplace standards, as government pressure to mine resources and build roads and other infrastructure leads to compromises on safety.

Its mining industry is the world's deadliest, claiming some 6,000 lives last year.

Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety Supervision, was to give the results of a government investigation into recent coal mine accidents later on Friday.

The International Labour Organisation estimated the number of fatal workplace accidents in China in 2001 at more than 90,000.

Additional reporting by James Fish