Polish Coal Mine Disastor
- Coal mining sure is a dangerous occupation. It
seems because of all the demand, that more and
more mine accidents are happening.
One dead, 23 trapped after Polish coal mine blast
Tue Nov 21, 2006 3:13 PM ET
By Wojciech Zurawski
RUDA SLASKA, Poland (Reuters) - A gas explosion
killed at least one miner and trapped 23 others
underground in a deep coal mine in southern Poland on Tuesday, police said.
A police spokesman said the blast, which was
probably caused by methane, occurred at around
4:30 p.m. (1530 GMT) in a shaft about 1 km below ground.
"Some 23 people are (down) there right now and
there is absolutely no contact with them," he said.
A spokesman for the coal mine in the town of Ruda
Slaska, around 300 km (190 miles) southwest of
the capital Warsaw, said rescue work was in
progress but was likely to take some time.
"It is hard to say exactly what is going on there
right now," Zbigniew Madej, spokesman for the
state-run Polish Coal Company, told Polish All News television.
Local television said that at least one other
person had died in the mine but police were not able to confirm this.
Miner Andrzej Labus, who was in a nearby mine
shaft when the blast occurred, told Reuters he
had heard a loud explosion and feared the worst.
"There was a huge blast and suddenly everything
turned black. We were terribly scared," he said.
The mine, Halemba, is one of the oldest in Poland
and has been in operation since 1957.
It lies at the heart of Silesia's industrial belt
and has seen several disasters in the past. In
1990, 19 miners were killed in the same pit after a gas explosion.
The town of Ruda Slaska has also suffered deaths
from its other mines and as recently as July four
miners were killed in another incident in a
different pit, Polish television reported.
Families of the trapped miners gathered at the
mine as news of the blast spread.
"Me and my son we are waiting for my husband,"
said Barbara Luczakiewicz, the wife of one of the
trapped men. "We hope he will get out of there. I
am very scared but I haven't lost hope."
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was on his way
to the mine, a government spokesman said.
RUDA SLASKA, Poland A small reconnaissance team
was sent deep into a coal mine Wednesday to
locate 15 workers missing more than 3,000 feet
underground after an explosion, but it had to
withdraw because gas levels were too high.
The digging was halted after high concentrations
of gas raised fears of a second blast at the
Halemba mine in southern Poland, where eight coal
miners were killed Tuesday, officials and rescue crews said.
"Any spark could cause another explosion and more
victims," rescue worker Boguslaw Ozog said.
Teams recovered six bodies from the scene of the
blast in the southern city of Ruda Slaska, said
Zbigniew Madej, a spokesman for the mine's
operator. Another two bodies have been found but
could not be reached because of the high concentration of methane gas.
Locator devices carried by the missing miners
were emitting no signals, officials said.
"This is probably the most difficult and
dangerous rescue action in Poland in many years,"
Dominik Kolorz, of miners' Solidarity trade union said on TVN24.
Andrzej Pytlik, 30, whose brother-in-law was one
of the miners involved, stayed with his sister
until 2 a.m. at the mine's canteen and returned
early Wednesday. He said the bodies had not yet
been identified and it was not known whether his
sister's husband, Krystian Gaszka, was among the dead or the missing.
"It's the worst _ she's been crying the whole
time," he said, adding that Gaszka had been
filling in on a shift that he had not been scheduled to work.
Pytlik said his sister was still clinging to hope
but that he, a miner himself, had given up.
"I work in the mines and I know that hope is
scant because that's the truth," he said, holding back tears.
After meeting with family members at the mine,
President Lech Kaczynski canceled a Wednesday
trip to Georgia and a Friday trip to Romania. "I
should be here ... even though these were very important visits," he said.
Labor Minister Anna Kalata promised substantial
financial assistance for the families.
The miners, between the ages of 21 and 59, were
trying to retrieve equipment that had to be
abandoned months ago in a section of the mine
that was closed in March due to the gas.
The affected shaft was closed in March because
high gas concentrations made further work there
too dangerous, said Grzegorz Pawlaszek, head of the state-owned Coal Co.
However, equipment worth $23 million was left
behind and the team was sent in to retrieve it
under the supervision of specialists.
Inside the mine complex, officials and priests
were counseling distraught relatives seeking word on missing loved-ones.
Zbigniew Nowak, 30, a miner saved after a cave-in
in the same part of the Halemba mine in February,
lit a candle with his wife and daughter at the mine's gate.
"Down there, waiting for rescue, you think of
everything, of your life, your family, how things
were and how they could have been," said Nowak,
who spent five days trapped underground.
Labor unions complain that a lack of investment
and massive layoffs in recent years have resulted
in falling safety standards at the nation's mines.
The nearly 50-year-old Halemba mine, located in
the heart of the Silesia industrial region, is
one of the oldest in the country, and has a record of serious accidents.
In 1990, 19 miners were killed and 20 injured in
a gas explosion at the mine. In 1991, five miners were killed in a cave-in.
Poland's worst mining accidents were in 1974 and
1979 when explosions killed 34 miners each at the
Czechowice-Dziedzice in Silesia and the Dymitrow mine in Bytom.