An explosion Monday in a coal mine in France's eastern region of Lorraine killed 22 miners and injured about 100. It was the worst French coal mine disaster in more than a decade.
The blast, 3,450 feet underground in the Forbach mine near the West German border, was thought to have been caused by fire damp, a gas given off by coal and constituted largely of methane. When it explodes, it immediately ignites coal dust nearby.
Officials said 923 men were working in the pit at the time, and mine rescue workers were at first unable to penetrate the area where the blast occurred because of a dense concentration of gases.
A mine spokesman said most of the injured were treated for inhalation of toxic fumes and that none were in serious condition.
Trade unions immediately called for a full inquiry. One of them said in a statement: "Such an accident could have been averted if real priority had been given to security in our mines."
The accident was the worst of its kind in France since 42 miners died at a pit in the northern town of Lievin in December, 1974.
It brought the death toll in French mines to 214 in just over 25 years.