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Investment 'could have prevented' latest Ukraine coal mine disaster

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By Alasdair Sandford  with Reuters, AP
Investment 'could have prevented' latest Ukraine coal mine disaster

The families of some of the Ukrainian coal miners killed in an underground explosion earlier this week say more could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

Another man injured in Wednesday’s blast – more than 1,000 metres underground at the mine on the outskirts of Donetsk – has died in hospital, bringing the total number of dead to 34.

It came as the first funerals were held for the victims.

A young man named as Andrei, whose brother was killed in the mine, believes modest investment in safety equipment by the private owners could have saved lives.

“Everything could have been avoided by buying some equipment that didn’t cost much, just $50,000,” he said.

After comforting his distraught mother, Andrei went on:
“My brother felt something was wrong two weeks before his death, he felt something was going to happen. And the other miners were saying that without a de-gassing operation they would all end up dead.”

President Poroshenko declared Thursday a national day of mourning.

The Zasyadko coal mine is notoriously dangerous. This week’s explosion is the eighth fatal accident since 1999.

In the worst disaster, in November 2007, 101 miners were reported killed in a gas explosion. Two more blasts the following month claimed the lives of a further 57.

Today the mine lies close to the conflict frontline in eastern Ukraine.

The fighting did not directly cause the blast – rebel forces who control the area blamed methane gas.

But parts of the mine have suffered war damage and workers say the conflict has made it less safe.

In a part of Ukraine dominated by coal and steel, miners have little choice but to work at locations that are frequently under fire.