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Polish Coal Mine Disastor

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  • David
    Coal mining sure is a dangerous occupation. It seems because of all the demand, that more and more mine accidents are happening. Dave Kuchta One dead, 23
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 22, 2006
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      Coal mining sure is a dangerous occupation. It
      seems because of all the demand, that more and
      more mine accidents are happening.
      Dave Kuchta

      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.

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      Update:

      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.

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