Rescuers on Sunday worked to free 17 miners trapped following a gas explosion at a coal mine in western China, the country’s official news agency reported. The blast at the mine in Fukang City, 120 kilometres from Urumqi, the capital of the sprawling Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, happened at 8.43pm on Saturday evening, according to the Xinhua News Agency. It said three other people working inside the mine at the time had been rescued. Rescuers were pouring nitrogen into the mine to dilute the gas concentration. The process, which was started early on Sunday morning, needed to be continued for 24 hours before it would be safe to enter the pit, said rescuers. China has the world’s deadliest mines, although the safety record has been improving in recent years as regulators have strengthened enforcement of safety rules. Xinhua said the pit is mined by Dahuangshan Yuxin Coal Mining, owned by the sixth agricultural division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. It is a paramilitary organisation that was revived by the central government in the 1980s to aid the region’s construction and development. Calls to the organisation rang unanswered on Sunday. A duty officer at Xinjiang’s work safety bureau said he had no information about the incident.