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Ukraine Mine Blast Kills 12 Workers

July 31, 2002

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ An explosion rocked a coal mine Wednesday night in Ukraine, killing at least 12 miners in the latest disaster to hit the country’s mining industry, officials said.

The number of deaths was likely to rise with a broadcaster saying at least 18 had been killed, but officials couldn’t confirm the report from the local One-Plus-One TV channel.

According to initial reports, 12 bodies have been brought to the surface, said Volodymyr Radchenko, first deputy state secretary of the State Labor Safety Committee. He said at least 20 miners were believed working nearly 3,000 feet underground at the time of accident. There was no immediate word on the other seven miners.

Dozens of rescue teams were headed to the scene of the Zasiadko mine in Donetsk in southeastern Ukraine, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry. Four intensive-care medical units were waiting for possible victims on the surface.

The accident is the latest in a series of incidents at mines in Ukraine _ believed to be the most dangerous in the world with about 3,700 miners killed since 1991. Critics blame the dangers on a lack of funds to modernize equipment and negligence toward safety regulations.

On July 7, 35 coal workers were killed in a mine fire _ the deadliest mine accident this year in Ukraine. On July 21, a methane blast killed six miners and injured 18. In the latest incident this weekend, 34 miners were trapped by an underground fire, but were brought to safety.

At the Zasiadko mine, 55 workers were killed by a methane gas explosion in August 2001 and 50 miners were killed in a May 1999 accident.

Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine’s work safety agency suspended work in 43 mines for violations of safety regulations in the wake of the recent accidents.

Update hourly