Ten other miners who were underground when the fire broke out on Friday morning escaped, the Xinhua news agency said.

Emergency crew had found the 26 bodies by Friday night.

Early investigations indicated that cables caught fire and ignited timber in the mine, Xinhua said.

China's mining industry is the world's largest and deadliest. Coal mine accidents killed 4620 miners in the first nine months of this year, according to state media.

The government had closed several mines for safety checks but a coal crunch has forced some local governments to rush through the inspections .

Gas well sealed

Meanwhile, emergency workers sealed off a natural gas well on Saturday, capping the source of a toxic gas cloud that killed nearly 200 people and poisoned thousands in southwestern Chongqing municipality.

Dressed in special breathing gear, a crew of 80 technicians began pouring hundreds of cubic metres of mud into the well, plugging a deadly flow of natural gas and sulphurated hydrogen that turned surrounding farmland into a death zone late on Tuesday.

"The capping of the Chuandongbei well has been completed successfully," the official Xinhua news agency said soon after the operation began.

At least 198 people, mostly villagers, and large numbers of livestock were killed after the blow-out, which spewed a poisonous gas cloud into the night sky.

More than 40,000 people were evacuated from villages within a radius of five km from the remote site of the gas field, operated by state run China National Petroleum Corp.

More than 9,000 people poisoned to varying degrees filled local hospitals.

Rescue teams scoured surrounding villages, finding corpses strewn on roadsides. Others died as they slept.