Ukraine mine accidents leave 32 dead

Thirty-two miners killed in two separate incidents, as president calls for a national day of mourning.

     Rescue efforts are ongoing to find survivors in the Donetsk region mine where eight people have died [EPA]

    Rescue workers in Ukraine have recovered more bodies as the death toll from two separate mining accidents rose to 32.

    An explosion in a mine in the Luhansk region early on Friday killed at least 24 people and injured two, the Emergencies Ministry website said. Two miners remained missing.

    Also on Friday, eight miners died and four were injured at a state-owned mine in the Donetsk region, when a piece of heavy machinery collapsed. Three people are still missing.

    The blast in Luhansk hit the Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnaya mine at around 2:00 am on Friday, in an air passage at a depth of more than 900 metres, where 28 miners were working at the time, the Emergencies Ministry said.

    The regional administration said "the provisional explanation is a methane explosion".

    The Interfax news agency also quoted a regional mining official as saying the explosion was caused by a concentration of methane gas inside the mine, where 252 people were working at the time.

    The explosion is the deadliest since 2007, when a methane blast at a nearby mine killed more than 100 people.

    Day of mourning

    President Viktor Yanukovych announced a day of mourning for Sunday, while Prime Minister Mykola Azarov is to attend a funeral service for victims the same day and meet their relatives.

    Rescuers have begun clearing gas from an emergency access tunnel into the mine, in order to go down in search of the missing miners, a spokeswoman for the Lugansk regional administration told the news agency, AFP.

    Albina Kosheleva said there was little hope of finding more miners alive. "I can't say anything about this. It is unlikely," she said.

    Last month, a fire occurred at the mine but no one was hurt. In 1992, 58 people were killed in a methane explosion at the same mine.

    Yury Boiko, the country's energy minister, went to the scene of the accident to personally take charge of the rescue operation.

    The mine is owned by Krasnodon Coal, Ukraine's second largest mining company and has been in operation since 1980.

    Donetsk region

    The state-owned mine in the Donetsk region, a 65-metre-high tower containing the headgear for raising and lowering miners into the shaft, collapsed on Friday, trapping the workers.

    Efforts are still underway in trying to find the three missing miners trapped in the rubble "as the search and rescue operation is continuing", said the Emergencies Ministry.

    The concrete tower crashed to the ground, collapsing into a mass of rubble and tangled wires.

    Ukraine produced more than 75 million tonnes of energy and coking coal last year, but has been plagued by accidents caused by poor infrastructure and lax safety regulations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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