New blast at Ukraine mine: 44 in hospital

DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – An explosion injured 44 miners on Saturday at a colliery in eastern Ukraine struck by the country’s worst mining accident two weeks ago, officials said.

Ukraine’s Mining Inspectorate said 63 miners were in the affected section when the blast occurred just before 6 a.m. — in the same area of the Zasyadko pit as last month’s deadly methane explosion. All 63 were brought to the surface.

“An explosion occurred at 5.55 a.m. in a section of the mine isolated by fire. Sixty-three people were in the immediate vicinity,” an inspectorate duty officer said.

“All have now been brought to the surface. There are no miners remaining below.”

Regional officials said 44 miners were in hospital — 35 for gas poisoning, three for various injuries and six undergoing intensive care in Donetsk, in the heart of the Donbass coalfield.

Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuev, quoted by Interfax Ukraine news agency, said two men were seriously hurt. Miners in the section had been conducting reconstruction work after last month’s accident rather than extracting coal.

All work in the section had been halted, he said, and assigning miners to other jobs would be considered next week.

The Emergencies Ministry said a miner died in an incident involving a coal wagon at another mine near Donetsk.

The explosion on November 18 at the Zasyadko mine, site of four major accidents since 2001, killed 101 miners. About 10 bodies have still to be brought out of the mine and fires are still burning more than 1 km below the surface.

Ukraine’s mining industry, with some pits dating from the 19th century, has been plagued by a long series of accidents. At least 193 miners have died in Donetsk region alone this year.

Zasyadko is viewed as one of Ukraine’s technically most advanced and profitable pits. But experts say that mining far below the surface at this and other Ukrainian collieries increases the risk of accidents.

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