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Czech coal mine gas explosion kills 13

27 December 2018

A gas explosion killed 12 Poles and one Czech at an eastern Czech coal mine on December 20, according to mine operator OKD. The state-run company said that a methane blast more than 800 metres underground hit a gallery in the CSM coal mine near the town of Karvina. OKD said that attempts to rescue eight miners originally reported as unaccounted for had had to be abandoned due to conditions in the shaft.

Stock image
Stock image

"Rescue squads were immediately called in after the explosion. As we dug into the damaged section we gradually found many wounded, as well as one dead miner, and kept going. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where it was impossible to move forward, because there was a fire raging and zero visibility," OKD managing director Boleslav Kowalczyk said.

While there were still men deeper in the tunnels, air concentrations were deemed incompatible with life and the head of disaster management decided to seal off four sections of the mine to starve the fire of air. Rescue teams would then recover the victims when conditions allowed, Kowalczyk said.

Other mineworkers were evacuated to the surface soon after the incident with 10 reported injured, one critically.

The accident is the worst mining disaster in the Czech Republic since 1990, when 30 miners died in a fire at a mine near Karvina in the same region, according to a list compiled by CTK news agency.

The Polish victims were miners employed via the ALPEX company, OKD said. Polish President Andrzej Duda declared a day of national mourning on December 23.

Kowalczyk said a network of methane sensors deployed in the mine had not detected anything unusual prior to the blast.

OKD spokesman Ivo Celechovský said that the concentration of methane gas must have been 4.5 times above the safety limit, but was unwilling to speculate on the causes.

"In parallel with the rescue operations, a special commission is analysing the exact causes of the tragedy, so we will have to wait for their results."

The commission includes regional and police representatives, as well as those from the mine and the miners’ trade union.

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