Ukraine miners saved in daring rescue
Rescuers in the Ukraine Monday reached dozens
of survivors from a deadly pit blast that trapped them for more than a day deep
underground, reported dpa.
Seventeen coal miners had been rescued by late afternoon and authorities were optimistic more of the 19 men still trapped could be brought to the surface during the evening, local media said.
Emergency teams working in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region located the trapped miners in two chambers 750 and 850 metres below the surface. They also recovered one body.
Authorities had estimated between 33 and 37 miners were trapped below ground as a result of a Sunday methane gas explosion 1,000 metres below the surface.
A total 19 miners remained unaccounted for by Monday afternoon more than 36 hours after the explosion, the Inter television channel reported, citing mine management statements.
Rescuers raced against time throughout the night amid fears of flooding in the Karl Marx mine in Yenakiyevo, 60 kilometres north- east of the regional capital Donetsk.
Amateur video images of the Sunday blast aired by Channel 5 television showed a massive black mushroom cloud boiling above the Karl Marx shaft.
The powerful explosion demolished lifts, power systems, and support structures within the mine, causing substantial delays to rescuers.
Five workers, two of them women, in a lift near the top of the shaft at the time of the blast survived with moderate to severe burn injuries, Korrespondent magazine reported.
Voices of survivors were audible underground hours after the explosion, but debris prevented rescuers from reaching them quickly.
Emergency teams were only able to rig a temporary means of lowering rescuers into the hole some 12 hours after the explosion. The replacement lift was capable of moving only two persons at a time, slowing rescue efforts, according to the report.
The night passed with rescuers working furiously to reach the survivors, to shore up badly-damaged support structures, and to prevent the mine from filling with water, said Oleksander Turchinov, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister.
"We have reason to believe (more) people are still alive at the 850 metre level," Turchinov said. "It will take at least three hours to bring to the surface those (of the 21) we have already found."
Coal mining work had been banned in the shaft on Friday after a safety inspection, but it was not clear whether the trapped miners had been digging coal illegally, or performing legitimate maintenance work, Turchinov said.
Police were questioning staff of Orzhonakidzeugal, the company operating the Karl Marx mine, and persons found guilty of mining coal in defiance of the ban would according Turchinov "face the most severe penalties."
The Ukrainian government safety agency Gosgorpromnadzor on Monday banned mining work in all five of Orzhonakidzeugal's company-managed shafts for the duration of the investigation, according to news reports.
Ukrainian coal mines are among the most dangerous in the world due to the lack of safety measures.
The Ukrainian government has in recent months closed dozens of mines due to the high number of fatal accidents, but dozens of sub- standard mines continue to operate owing to the high demand for coal from the country's steel and energy industries.
Ukraine's worst-ever coal mining accident took place in 2007 in the Donetsk region's Zasyadko mine, killing 101 miners in an accidental methane blast.
Ukraine's coal mining industry claims on average between 250 and 350 lives every 12 months, mostly in underground explosions and equipment failures.