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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 16:51 GMT
Ukraine's mine death toll rises
Rescuers at Zasyadko mine, Ukraine
Ukraine's mines are among the most dangerous in the world

The death toll from Sunday's blast at a mine in Ukraine has risen to at least 90, making it the worst mining accident in the nation's history, officials say.

They say 10 miners are still missing in the Zasyadko coal mine in the eastern Donetsk region.

Fires have hindered rescue efforts, and a senior union official has said there is no chance of finding survivors.

The explosion, caused by a build-up of methane gas, occurred more than 1,000m (3,280ft) below ground.

The head of the Ukrainian Free Miners' Union, Mykhailo Volynets, said it was now certain that all the missing men had died.

There was a bang, the temperature surged, and [there was] thick dust. You could see absolutely nothing
Vitali Kvitkovski
Zasyadko miner

Several miners were buried on Tuesday as Ukraine observed a national day of mourning declared by President Viktor Yushchenko.

Nearly 360 of the more than 450 miners who were below ground when the explosion happened at 0300 (0100 GMT) have now been rescued, emergency officials say.

Some 30 miners are still being treated in hospitals, many suffering from methane inhalation.

Methane inhalation

One survivor described how he had to clamber over his dead colleagues along rail tracks to escape from the mine.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said on Sunday that there had been a cave-in at the accident site.


He also said a safety watchdog had reported that miners were working in accordance with regulations.

"This accident has proven once again that a human is powerless before the nature," Mr Yanukovych said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

But President Yushchenko said the government had "made insufficient efforts to reorganise the mining sector, particularly the implementation of safe mining practices".

Ukraine has had a series of mining accidents since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Miners' pay varies according to the volume of coal produced, giving them an incentive to ignore safety procedures that would slow production, one union official said.

In September 2006, a gas leak at the Zasyadko coal mine, one of Ukraine's largest, killed 13 miners and injured dozens more.

Before Sunday's blast, Ukraine's worst mining accident was at a mine in the eastern Luhansk region in 2000, killing at least 80 people.

Relatives of missing miners wait for news

In pictures: Ukrainian mine blast
18 Nov 07 |  In Pictures
Ukraine's deadly coal mines
04 Mar 03 |  Crossing Continents
Ukraine miners break law to survive
03 Nov 02 |  Media reports
Country profile: Ukraine
01 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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