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BEIJING (AP) — State media says 21 workers were killed by a gas leak at a factory in northern China earlier this week after executives were caught underreporting the number of deaths.

The Xinhua News Agency says workers were poisoned after a gas pipeline broke at the Hebei Puyang Iron and Steel Co. Monday in Handan city in northern Hebei province.

The Friday report says company officials initially said 16 workers were poisoned and seven died while nine were sent to a hospital.

It says senior executives "confessed" late Thursday that they covered up the death toll.

Calls to the local government office and Puyang company rang unanswered Friday.

Workplace accidents are common in China with thousands dying every year.

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