One Dead, Fate Of Dozens Unknown After Ukraine Mine Blast

The explosion occurred at the Zasyadko mine in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

One miner died and the fate of dozens more is unknown after an explosion at a coal mine in a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine, according to multiple reports.

Miners arrive to help with the rescue effort in Donetsk on March 4. Baz Ratner / Reuters

Officials have reported conflicting death tolls. Kiev’s parliamentary speaker initially said over 32 people had died in the blast at the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk, but later revised his statement to say just one had been confirmed dead, CNN reported.

Volodymyr Groysman told the Ukrinform news agency: “I have updated information that the fate of 32 miners remains unknown. They are being searched for. The death of one person has been confirmed.”

Earlier, Reuters quoted a mining official who said at least 70 miners were trapped underground, and that at least 30 had died.

Meanwhile, mining union spokesman Mikhail Volynets told AFP that 207 miners were underground at the time of the blast, with 53 in the vicinity of the explosion. He said that the fate of 43 of the miners was unknown, and that they could be dead.

A rebel spokesman told Russian news agency Interfax earlier that he could not confirm the figure of 30 dead, the BBC reported.

Family members wait outside the Zasyadko coal mine, March 4. Baz Ratner / Reuters

A man smokes near emergency vehicles parked outside the mine. Baz Ratner / Reuters

The cause of the blast has not been officially identified, although the BBC reported it as a suspected gas explosion.

A Reuters reporter at the scene said that miners’ relatives had begun to gather at the entrance to Zasyadko, and were desperately searching for news about their loved ones.

One woman, whose brother was in the mine, was seen sobbing while asking a rescue worker: “Tell me, are there survivors? Why are you concealing the truth?”

A welder at the mine, identified by Reuters only as Oleg, 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.”

Although Zasyadko is a relatively new and well-equipped mine, it was also the scene of Ukraine’s worst mining disasters, when 107 people died in a blast in 2007.

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