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Estonian Mine Ablaze For More Than A Month

December 7, 1988

TALLINN, U.S.S.R. (AP) _ An oil shale mine in northeastern Estonia has been ablaze for more than a month and authorities believe it will take another week to extinguish, a newspaper reported.

Kodumaa, a newspaper published in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, said Tuesday that 500 miners had to be rescued and no injuries were reported when the fire broke out Nov. 3 at the Estonia Mine near the town of Kohtla-Jarve in this tiny republic on the Baltic Sea.

Firefighters sealed sections of the mine with concrete and then poured in 21 million gallons of water to contain the blaze, whose origin was unknown. Two explosions have rocked the huge mine since the fire started.

Some 200 firefighters and 200 miners have been fighting the fire, the newspaper reported.

Estonian environmentalists have complained the mine is ruining the area, and the water used to put out the fire has become contaminated with phenol, a poisonous substance formed by burning shale.

Two weeks after the fire started, Kodumaa said, the phenol content in nearby rivers exceeded safe levels by several thousand times. Authorities are considering building several huge reservoirs to store the contaminated water when it is pumped out of the mine.

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