Dozens dead in US mine blast

United Press International

Four
miners remained unaccounted for from Monday’s explosion at the sprawling Massey
Energy mining complex in Raleigh
County, and rescue crews
were pulled for safety reasons because of dangerous levels of methane gas and
carbon dioxide, the Charleston Gazette reported Tuesday.

“As
soon as we can send rescue teams back in the mine, we’ll do it,” said
Kevin Stricklin, an administrator at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health
Administration.

Crews had
reached the first of two rescue chambers in the mine and planned to drill
boreholes to the second chambers, Stricklin said. The rescue chambers have
about four days’ worth of survival supplies, he said.

The
explosion is believed to have occurred near shift change with a crew leaving
the operation in an underground mine vehicle, Stricklin said.

The
accident occurred at Massey Energy subsidiary Performance Coal Co.’s Upper Big
Branch Mine-South, which employs about 200 people.

The mine
had received many citations from safety officials, ABC News reported. Among
other things, ABC News said, the mine was cited for failing to develop and
follow a ventilation plan.

West
Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin was out of state when he heard about the blast, the
Gazette said.

“These
are good people, hard working people,” Manchin said. “I asked them to
do what they do best — to love each other.”

President
Barack Obama spoke with Manchin, offering condolences and “whatever
assistance is needed in this rescue effort,” a White House statement said.

“Our
prayers go out to the families of the miners,” Massey Chief Executive
Officer Don Blankenship said Monday evening. “We want to assure the
families of all the miners we are taking every action possible to locate and
rescue those still missing.”

The cause
of the explosion hadn’t been determined, but some mine safety experts said
initial reports indicated the blast was associated with a buildup of methane
inside a sealed area of the mine, or that methane had leaked through mine
seals, the newspaper reported.

It is the
worst mining disaster in the United States
since 27 people died at a Utah
mine in 1984.

Four
years ago, a series of mine accidents in West Virginia
and Kentucky killed 19 miners and led to
reforms to U.S.
mine safety laws for the first time in three decades, the Gazette said.

WORLDmineSTORY

An aerial view from an aircraft shows an Appalachia mountain being mined by the strip mining practice called “Mountain Top Removal” in southern West Virginia.
Photo: UPI/Debbie Hill
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