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Fire kills 35 in coal mine

Two more people have died from a fire in a coal mine in Donetsk that officials said was probably caused by complacency and neglect, bringing the death toll to 35 and injured to 12, reported CNN on 10 July. The fire started before dawn some 500 meters underground where 107 miners were working.

A government commission led by Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna is investigating the fire. Officials say the miners had respirators, but their bodies were found without them.

Ukraine's Labor Safety Committee reported that 116 miners were killed in industrial accidents in Ukraine from January to June this year; more than 3,700 miners have died since Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Reuters reported. Some 300 miners were killed in mining accidents last year, according to Reuters. An estimated 75 percent of the country's 209 mines are considered to be highly prone to methane blasts. The World Bank has advised Ukraine to close half its mines, offering a $100 million "mitigation" loan to cushion the social impact, but the government rejected the program and has closed only a small fraction.

The International Labor Organization told RFE/RL a combination of factors cause the frequent accidents, ranging from the geology of Ukraine's deep coal seams to lack of investment in production and safety equipment and nonpayment of wages. An official from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration who has inspected Ukraine's mines says that more methane extraction should be performed before drilling, and has initiated a cost-effective rock-dusting program to prevent explosions from spreading.

(RFE/RL 12.vii.02)

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