At least 25 miners have died in a fire at a colliery in central China and three others remain trapped in the latest disaster to hit the world's most dangerous mining industry.

The accident occurred in Xiangtan County in Hunan province, the official Xinhua news agency said, when underground cables caught fire.

Though 43 miners escaped, rescuers said conditions were harsh.

'Rescue work was extremely difficult, with too much toxic gas in the shaft after the fire,' Xinhua quoted Wang Shuhe, deputy head of State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, as saying.

The report added that the coal mine was privately-run and had 180 employees. It was being upgraded to double annual output to 60,000 tonnes.

China has the world's deadliest coal-mining industry with more than 3,000 people killed in mine floods, explosions, collapses and other accidents in 2008 alone.

A gas blast at a coal pit in China in November killed at least 104.

Compared with other manual jobs, Chinese coal miners can earn relatively high wages, tempting workers and farmers to take jobs in rickety and poorly ventilated shafts.