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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 00:48 GMT
Trapped US coal miners found dead
Sign outside cinema in Melville, West Virginia
The nearby town of Melville had been hoping for a miracle
Rescuers have found the bodies of two coal miners trapped underground by a fire in the US state of West Virginia.

The two men had become separated from their crew as they tried to escape a conveyor belt blaze on Thursday. The other 19 miners made it out unharmed.

The deaths at the Aracoma mine come less than a month after 12 men died in a blast at the state's Sago mine.

Local political leaders renewed calls for stricter safety regulations in the coal industry.

'Valiant effort'

The bodies of Don Bragg, 33, and Ellery Hatfield, 47, were found close together during a search by seven separate rescue teams at the Aracoma mine, 95km (60 miles) south-west of Charleston.

Doug Conaway
We have found the two miners we were looking for. Unfortunately we don't have a positive outcome
Doug Conaway,
Office of Miners' Health Training and Safety

Both men were married with children.

Doug Conaway, West Virginia's mine safety chief, said: "It appears right now that the two miners were trying to make a valiant effort.

"They were together trying to get outside and they encountered pretty high temperatures and high [carbon monoxide] levels."

Intense heat and smoke had blocked the rescue teams from getting beyond the burning conveyor belt.

The two miners only had canisters to provide an hour of oxygen but officials had hoped they might find air pockets.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin and Senator Jay Rockefeller informed families of the deaths at a church ahead of the public statement.

Mr Manchin then pledged to introduce legislation to ensure rescue teams got to accident scenes quicker. He also said miners would be electronically tracked and that oxygen stations would be required by law in mines.

He said: "If I am able with every breath in my body to make the changes that need to be made, [I'll] make sure that every brave miner... knows they're in the safest conditions humanly possible."

Sen Rockefeller said he was "very angry", adding: "Coal mining has to be done safely and responsibly and it shall be".

The Aracoma deaths followed those of 12 miners in the Sago mine blast on 2 January.

There was only one survivor, despite earlier reports that 12 had been saved.



SEE ALSO:
US mining safety under scrutiny
05 Jan 06 |  Americas
Surviving US miner is recovering
18 Jan 06 |  Americas
Doomed miners' last notes found
06 Jan 06 |  Americas


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