DOZENS of coal miners were reported missing yesterday when an explosion ripped through the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk before dawn, with at least 47 miners missing inside, according to the local miners union.
The blast took place more than 3,000 feet underground as 230 workers were in the mine, they said, blaming a mixture of gas and air — a common cause of industrial mining accidents.
By mid-afternoon, one miner was confirmed dead, 198 workers had been evacuated from the mine and the fate of 32 others was unknown, the officials said.
Injured miner Igor Murygin said in a hospital in Donetsk that he had been blown off his feet by the impact of the explosion.
“When I came to, there was dust everywhere. People were groaning,” said Mr Murygin, who has burns over 20 per cent of his body.
He added that the mine had installed new equipment and that nothing appeared to be out of order.
Fifteen miners were sent to medical centres in Donetsk, where Dr Emil Fistal disclosed that at least six were in grave condition.
“For now, I can say only that 32 people are below ground. One person has died,” Ivan Prikhodko, administrative head of the Kiev district in Donetsk.
“Until rescuers get to them, speaking about how many people have died would be unethical.”
A mine rescue services representative, Yuliana Bedilo, also said only one death had been confirmed.
The explosion was not caused by shelling, said the Donetsk People’s Republic authorities, in whose territory the mine is located.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk claimed in Kiev that rebels had prevented a team of 60 Ukrainian rescue workers from reaching the mine to provide assistance, but leading Donetsk People’s Republic representative Denis Pushilin denied that Ukrainian authorities had offered any help.
“If we truly need assistance, we will turn to Russia,” he said.