BEIJING — Four miners died and 57 were left missing in a central China coal mine, an official said Friday, in the latest fatal mishap to hit the nation's notoriously dangerous mining industry.
The accident occurred Thursday evening at the Qianqiu coal mine in Henan province, which belongs to the Henan Yima Coal Mine Group, a large state-owned mining firm, a company spokesman told AFP by phone.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, a rock burst -- or a sudden ejection of rocks -- occurred in the mine shaft, trapping the miners.
"At present, four mine workers have been confirmed dead and there are still 57 others trapped in the mine shaft," said the spokesman, who refused to be named. "An intense search effort is ongoing."
The rock burst happened moments after a 2.9 magnitude earthquake shook Henan's Sanmenxia city, where the mine is located, the Xinhua report said.
It was not immediately clear whether the earthquake directly caused the accident.
The Henan coal mine safety bureau said 75 miners were in the mine shaft at the time and 14 managed to escape.
The incident is the latest to hit the mining industry in China, and came days after a gas explosion in a state-owned coal mine in neighbouring Hunan province left 29 miners dead.
Earlier in October, blasts in the southwestern city of Chongqing and the northern province of Shaanxi killed 13 and 11 miners respectively.
In 2010, 2,433 people died in coal mine accidents in China, according to official statistics -- a rate of more than six workers per day.
China's rapid economic growth has caused demand for energy, including coal, to surge, with some mining bosses putting the safety of workers at risk to chase profits.