Chances slim for miners

HELPING COLLEAGUES: Miners arrive to help with the rescue effort at Zasyadko mine
HELPING COLLEAGUES: Miners arrive to help with the rescue effort at Zasyadko mine

Dozens of trapped workers in Ukraine feared dead after blast deep underground

DOZENS of miners were trapped underground and feared dead yesterday after a blast at a coal mine in the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, with rescuers saying the chance of finding many survivors was slim.

Mine officials said the explosion was not linked to fighting at the nearby frontline in the war between Moscow-backed rebels and Ukraine government forces.

Kiev accused the separatists of holding up the rescue effort by restricting access.

Outside the gates of the Zasyadko mine, relatives clamoured for information. A miner injured in the blast mingled with the crowd, his face covered in scratches and one arm hanging motionless, the result of a broken collarbone.

The miner, Sergei Baldayev, said five bodies had so far been retrieved from the area of the blast, in a shaft deep underground.

The sister of a miner who was in the pit at the time of the explosion, Alexei Novoselsky, stood in tears.

“Tell me, are there survivors? Why are you concealing the truth,” she said as a rescue services employee tried to calm her.

Donetsk has been the scene of heavy fighting between Moscowbacked separatist rebels, who control the region, and forces loyal to the government in Kiev.

A ceasefire has sharply reduced the violence in the past week.

The neighbourhood around the mine has come under artillery fire, but mine officials said the explosion was most likely caused by gas.

In Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said rescue workers had been dispatched by the central authorities, “but the Russian terrorists did not let them reach the scene of the accident”.

Figures given by medical workers at the scene, miners and a mine official speaking on condition of anonymity pointed to there being about 50 miners still underground.

On Tuesday, some officials had said more than 30 people were killed in the early-morning blast, although later officials would not confirm that figure. Rescue services were working to reach the epicentre of the blast, they said.

A medical worker said the chance of there being survivors was getting smaller and two buses had been brought in in preparation for carrying away the bodies.

An explosion at Zasyadko in 2007 killed 106 people.

– Reuters

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