• Wednesday, May 31, 2023
  • Last Update : 06:33 pm

Thirteen dead after fire in Czech mine

  • Published at 07:05 pm December 21st, 2018
Czech-Mine explosion
Miners stand at a compound of the CSM hard coal mine after a methane explosion near the town of Karvina, Czech Republic, December 21, 2018 Reuters

'In total, we have 13 dead miners, 12 Polish and one Czech,' Ivo Celechovsky, spokesman for the OKD mining company, told AFP

Thirteen miners died and 10 were injured after a methane gas fire erupted in a coal mine in the east of the Czech Republic, a spokesman said Friday.

The accident occurred at a depth of 880 metres (2,800 feet) at the CSM mine in the city of Karvina, about 300 kilometres (190 miles) east of Prague and close to the Polish border, on Thursday afternoon.

"In total, we have 13 dead miners, 12 Polish and one Czech," Ivo Celechovsky, spokesman for the OKD mining company, told AFP.

Nada Chattova, a spokeswoman for the hospital in the nearby city of Ostrava, said two men had been treated at its burns centre, including one fighting for his life.

"One was brought in by helicopter; he is still in a critical condition. The other one is in a stable condition and his life is not in danger," she told AFP.

One miner with lighter injuries was taken to a hospital in Karvina and seven were treated on the spot, also with lighter injuries, Czech media said. 

Authorities had reported five dead miners and eight missing on Thursday evening.

"Thirteen miners have not made it to the surface. It's impossible for any of them to survive," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters after visiting the site on Friday.

"I'm terribly sad," Morawiecki said, adding that Poland would take care of the bereaved families and of those who have survived.

He added Poland had sent in a rescue team but that the operation had stopped because of high temperatures in the mine and the danger of further explosions.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda declared Sunday a day of national mourning.

'Feel like crying'

OKD spokesman Celechovsky said the fire was still burning and barriers were being put up to stop it from spreading, with work expected to continue at least until Sunday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called the blast a "huge tragedy" in a tweet, while President Milos Zeman said he was "immensely saddened" by the accident.

Bohuslav Machek, an inspector at the Czech Mining Authority, told AFP the cause of the fire was uncertain.

"There must have been some source, some spark, which ignited the methane," he said.

"There are more possibilities, but at this point, it is pure speculation," he added.

Celechovsky said on Thursday the dead Polish miners were from the Poland-based Alpex mining company.

"We're one big family, it's a terrible tragedy," a Czech miner told the local Polar TV.

"I was supposed to be there, I work with these teams every day. They sent me to work somewhere else today," said a Polish miner.

"I feel like crying," he told Polar TV.

OKD, which runs the mine, is controlled by the Czech state and expects to extract about five million tonnes of coal this year.

The accident is the most serious  at a Czech mine since 1990 when 30 miners died after a methane explosion at another mine in Karvina.