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The BBC's Robert Parsons in Moscow
"Ukraine's dangerous mining industry"
 real 28k

Writer on Ukraine, Anna Reid
"Lots of broken pit props ... oxygen tanks don't work"
 real 28k

Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 19:57 GMT
Ukraine mourns mine deaths
Miners' corpses taken away
The 80 dead miners were brought out one by one
Ukraine is to observe two days of official mourning on Monday and Tuesday in memory of eighty coal miners who died in a mine explosion.

May this mine be cursed. It has taken my little son forever. First my husband and now my son.

Dead miner's mother
Announcing the decision on national radio, Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma said that flags would fly at half-mast on all official buildings and entertainment programmes on television would be cancelled.

More than 250 rescue workers have completed the task of bringing the bodies of the victims to surface. Seven miners were also injured in the accident at the Barakova mine, in Krasnodon, five of them critically.

Cause unknown

The blast ripped through the mine in the Luhansk region on Saturday at a depth of 664m (2,000ft). It was the country's worst mining disaster since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Map of the Ukraine
The cause of the explosion is not entirely clear. The Emergencies Ministry said the explosion appeared to have been caused by an "overconcentration of coal dust which ignited with a flame or spark". Earlier it said a methane gas build-up was probably responsible.

Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, who postponed a visit to Washington, was due to visit the scene on Monday as head of the government investigative commission.

President Kuchma cancelled a visit to Poland. His office said he might also travel to the region for the miners' funerals on Monday.

Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to President Kuchma saying: "All Russians are united in sadness with their Ukrainian brothers."

Recovering the dead

The Emergencies Ministry said in an official statement that 277 miners had been working on the shift, and 88 had been underground at the time of the explosion.

More than 200 miners survived the explosion
More than 200 miners survived the explosion
Rescue services said most of the victims had died from suffocation, with others crushed to death and a few dying from burns.

"It's hellish down below. Everything is burnt and many underground tunnels collapsed. The smoke is so thick that you can hardly breathe," said one rescue worker, Sergei, who has worked for 22 years at the mine.

"It was frightening, we went down and they were all lying one next to the other - all dead," another rescue worker, Andriy, said.

"In all the years I've been doing this I've never seen this many bodies. It was a real nightmare."

Troubled mines
May 1999 - 50 miners burnt to death
April 1998 - methane explosion killed 63
Nearly 130 have died so far this year
1999: About 280 died
1998: About 360 died
1997: About 260 died
1996: Nearly 340 died
400,000 coal workers
More than 200 mines
Average wage: $100
About 200 relatives spent Saturday night waiting anxiously outside the mine shaft entrance as rescue workers pulled out bodies, wrapped in plastic bags and blankets.

A list of the 80 dead was pinned to a noticeboard inside the mine's main administrative building.

"May this mine be cursed. I hate it. It has taken my little son forever. First my husband and now my son," one elderly woman said.
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12 Mar 00 | Europe
Ukraine's troubled mines
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