Toll in Ukraine mine blast up to 88 says official

Other News Materials 20 November 2007 11:36 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - The toll from a weekend coal mine blast in eastern Ukraine jumped Tuesday to 88, making it the worst mining catastrophe in the country's post-Soviet history, an official said Tuesday.

"The bodies of 88 miners have been found" and 12 others are missing, the ministry of emergency situations said in a statement, updating an earlier toll of 80 dead and 20 missing.

Before Sunday's blast, the worst mining accident in Ukraine's post-Soviet history was the 2000 disaster at the Barakov mine, also in the east of the country, which killed 80 workers.

The latest explosion occurred early on Sunday some 1,000 metres ( 3,000 feet) underground at the Zasyadko mine.

Twenty-eight mine employees were hospitalised after the blast, mainly with problems connected to methane gas inhalation, and hopes of recovering the missing miners were fading.

President Viktor Yushchenko travelled to Donetsk on Monday where flags flew at half-mast in the grief-stricken city deep in the industrial heartland of the former Soviet republic.

Ukraine's coal mines concentrated in the east are considered among the most perilous in the world, with many poorly financed and employing outdated Soviet-era equipment.