The ambulances are on standby, but officals admit there is little hope of saving 15 Polish miners trapped in a methane-contaminated coal pit about a kilometre underground. It is understood a shaft at the Halemba mine in Ruda Slaska in southern Poland was closed in March after gas levels rose dangerously high. Yesterday’s methane explosion happened as a team tried to recover some 18 million euros of equipment left behind.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski pledged support for the miners’ families. “We need to have a glimmer of hope, although I can confirm eight casualties. I can’t hide the fact that the situation is very bad,” he said. Flags are at half mast in mourning for the victims.
Following the blast, rescuers managed to recover some bodies before they had to halt their efforts due to a new rise in gas levels. Coal is an important but dangerous industry in Poland. Before this latest disaster 20 people had been killed in mining accidents this year.