Page last updated at 22:32 GMT, Saturday, 15 November 2008

Gas blasts kill Romanian miners


Waiting for news outside the Romanian mine

Two gas explosions at a colliery in south Romania have killed 12 miners and at least eight others are being treated for serious burns, officials say.

Four were killed when they went to the aid of those caught in the first blast at the mine in the town of Petrila.

A union representative said conditions underground were very difficult as the mine is one of Romania's deepest.

It is one of the country's worst accidents since seven miners were killed in a blast nearly two years ago.

The first explosion occurred at a depth of 950m (3,116ft) due to a concentration of methane gas, national coal company director Daniel Surulescu said.

The Petrila mine
The mine employs about 1,500 people

Four hours later, the second explosion occurred as rescuers worked inside and three of these were also reportedly injured.

The rescuers were ordered to return to the surface immediately.

Families at the mine gate complained about a lack of information on the incident.

"We don't know anything, he is down there in the mine, that's all we know, we know absolutely nothing of him," one relative said.

Another complained: "I don't know where to go, nobody tells us anything, I don't know whether I should stay here or go to the hospital."

Men stand outside the Petrila mine waiting for news
Some 100 people were working in the mine at the time of the first blast

Mining was once a thriving industry in Romania, employing almost half a million people, and miners were a feared political force in the 1990s.

But the industry has struggled in recent years to compete against cheaper imported coal and cleaner forms of energy.

In 2001, a Romanian mining explosion left 14 people dead.

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Country profile: Romania
13 Nov 08 |  Country profiles

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