At Least 25 Miners Killed, 11 Missing in Ukraine Mine Blast

At Least 25 Miners Killed, 11 Missing in Ukraine Mine Blast
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At least 25 miners have been killed and 11 were missing after a gas explosion ravaged a coalmine in eastern Ukraine, in the country's deadliest mining incident in two years, the emergency ministry said. "Forty-eight miners were in the mine at the time of the explosions," said Vasyl Slovetsky, the spokesman for the ministry. "The bodies of 25 of them have been found, 11 others are missing and 12 were able to get to the surface unharmed." "The blast occurred at 997 meters (yards) below the surface," at 10:30 pm (1930 GMT) Monday at the Krasnolimanskaya mine in the eastern Donetsk region, Slovetsky said. Dozens of rescue and medical emergency teams were working at the site, searching for the missing men and trying to put out a fire that erupted in the mine following the blast. The rescue efforts were complicated by the fire and by the fact that the mine's galleries had collapsed, Slovetsky said. Ukraine's deputy prime minister in charge of energy affairs, Andriy Klyuyev, as well as Energy Minister Serhiy Tulub and Labor Minister Mikhaylo Papyev, were at the site of the incident. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was due to arrive at the site Tuesday. The government said it had allocated 2.5 million hryvna (470,800 dollars) to the families of the victims, the emergencies ministry said. A previous toll had 24 miners killed and 13 missing following the methane explosion. Earlier reports said 46 miners were working in the Krasnolimanskaya mine at the at the time of blast. Previous reports said the blast occurred at 545 meters below ground. Monday's blast is Ukraine's deadliest mining incident since July 2002, when 33 miners died in a fire. In 2001, 55 died in a gas explosion. Mining incidents, often causing heavy casualties, are frequent in Ukraine's cash-strapped mines, where security conditions are usually poor. Ukrainian mines, which have been severely underfinanced since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, are along with those in China considered among the most dangerous in the world. Some 100 miners have died in accidents this year; the ITAR-TASS news agency reported citing government statistics. Some 200 miners died in accidents in 2002 and nearly double the figure the previous year, according to official figures. As part of sector restructuring, the government, which controls nearly all of the nation's mines, has closed scores of mines in the country that each year produces an average of 80 million tonnes of coal. Ukraine today counts some 400,000 miners, compared to the more than a million during Soviet times, working in some 180 mines. Most of the mines still operating have not seen any upgrades in 25 years, ITAR-TASS reported. **PHOTO CAPTION*** A young miner smokes after he came up from coalface at the end of his shift, September 2003, at Skochinsky mine, one of the deepest and most dangerous, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. (AFP)

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