Ukraine Mine Blast Kills 30

Ukraine Mine Blast Kills 30Ukraine Mine Blast Kills 30

A suspected gas blast at a coal mine in a rebel-held region of east Ukraine has killed at least 30 people and left some 40 missing, officials said.

However, several rebel officials said later that they could not confirm the death toll at the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk. At least 14 miners were also injured at Zasyadko, which saw Ukraine’s worst mine disaster nearly eight years ago, BBC reported.

Anxious relatives of miners have gathered at the scene to await news. Very little information has been given out about the situation of the trapped miners.

Donetsk saw heavy fighting between separatist rebels and government troops over the winter but a mine union official, Mikhail Volynets, told a Ukrainian TV channel there had been no fighting in the area in recent days.

While Ukraine’s economy has significantly shrunk since the conflict began in April, many coal mines continue to operate in the conflict zone.

Before the conflict, accidents were common in the mines, where safety standards are poor.

In the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, speaker Volodymyr Hroisman told MPs that 32 people had been killed in a “terrible tragedy”. He called for a minute’s silence in memory of the victims. But speaking later to a Russian news agency, Interfax, the head of the rebel rescue service, Alexei Kudenko, said he could not confirm the reports of at least 30 deaths.

A Donetsk district official contacted by Interfax was also unable to confirm the deaths.

At the time of the blast, 230 people were in the shaft. Of these, 157 had been brought out by 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT), leaving 73 unaccounted for before reports of the deaths, rebel and official sources say.

  Tell Me

The sister of one miner who was in the pit at the time of the explosion, Alexei Novoselsky, stood at the entrance to the mine, in tears, Reuters reports.

“Tell me, are there survivors?” she asked a passing rescue worker. “Why are you concealing the truth?”

A welder at the mine, who gave his name as Oleg, said outside the entrance: “What I heard is that there are 45 people trapped. They got one out.”

Asked about the chances of rescuing more miners, he said: “I’ve been down the pit for 23 years, and this is the fourth explosion that I can recall. If they didn’t get them out straight away, then later they will only retrieve bodies. An explosion is a terrible thing.”

Despite being one of the region’s newer and better-equipped mines, Zasyadko suffered Ukraine’s worst mining disaster in November 2007, when 101 people were killed.

The mine is one of Ukraine’s biggest coal producers.