(From AFP)

A fire at a coal mine in China’s north-eastern province of Heilongjiang killed 21 people, state media reported Saturday.

Miners at a coal mine of the state-owned Longmay Group on the outskirts of Jixi, China, in this file photo

The fire broke out late Friday evening at a mine in Jixi city operated by the state-owned Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Holding Group, said Xinhua.

Rescue workers found the bodies of 21 miners and were searching for one more.

Sixteen others had managed to escape when the fire broke out.

Jixi city is close to the border with Russia.

China – the world’s largest producer of coal – is grappling to improve standards in the poorly regulated sector where profits are often put above worker safety.

Accidents in Chinese coal mines killed 931 people in 2014, a top work safety official said in March.

In July, rescuers pulled six men from a flooded coal mine in Heilongjiang after they survived a week underground following an accident that killed at least four others, according to state media.

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