Explosion kills 63 Ukrainian miners

By the Associated Press

A methane blast tore through a coal mine in eastern Ukraine early Sunday, killing at least 63 workers in the worst mining accident in seven years in this former Soviet republic, emergency officials said.

More than 360 miners were rescued but 37 others remained trapped inside the mine, one of Ukraine’s largest and deepest, with a raging fire hampering efforts to save them, officials said.

The explosion occurred more than 3,300 feet deep inside the Zasyadko mine in the heart of Ukraine’s coal mining region, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Vitaly Kvitkovsky, a miner in his 30s who was among those evacuated, said he had to walk over the bodies of dead colleagues as he escaped. “The temperature increased sharply, and there was so much dust that I couldn’t see anything,” Kvitkovsky said in a televised interview. “So I was moving by touch over dead bodies along the rail track.”

Dozens of teary-eyed relatives gathered at the mine’s headquarters in Donetsk waiting for news. As grim-faced officials emerged to announce the names of the dead, the relatives broke into sobs and wails.


President Viktor Yushchenko blamed his Cabinet for not doing enough to reform coal mining and ordered an official panel to investigate and bring those responsible to account.

The accident was the deadliest in Ukraine since an explosion in the eastern Luhansk region killed 81 miners in March 2000. The latest tragedy highlighted the lack of attention to safety in a country with some of the world’s most dangerous mines.