Coal mine explosion in China leaves dozens trapped

At least 33 people are thought to be trapped at the mine in Chongqing

Coal mine explosion in China leaves dozens trapped

In this file photo, worker monitors coal being carried along conveyor ramps at a coal mine near Ordos in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. | Image: Mark Schiefelbein AP/Press Association Images

Updated - 13:15

The People's Daily in China is reporting that 15 people have died and 18 people are still missing following a gas explosion in a coal mine.

The official Xinhua News Agency says the condition of those still underground isn't known.

Citing local officials, it says the blast ripped through the mine in the sprawling western region of Chongqing shortly before noon Monday.

Last month, a gas explosion at a coal mine in northwest Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region left 18 people dead and two others missing.

In February, a gas leak at a coal mine in northeast Jilin Province left 12 miners dead, while in March 19 people died after a coal mine collapsed in northern Shanxi province while 129 workers were working underground.

China's mining industry has long been among the world's deadliest, although safety improvements and the closure of smaller, more dangerous mines have reduced the death toll in recent years.

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal but has announced plans to shutter more than 1,000 outdated mines. The head of China's State Administration of Work Safety said this year that struggling coal mines might be likely to overlook maintenance.