(UPDATED AUGUST 11, 11:00)

20 believed dead in coal mine blast

AN EXPLOSION, probably caused by flammable gases, occurred in the Handlová mine of the Hornonitrianske Bane Prievidza (HNB) mining company at about 8:30 in the morning on August 10. The explosion happened after mine rescuers had been deployed to extinguish a fire in an abandoned mining tunnel.

AN EXPLOSION, probably caused by flammable gases, occurred in the Handlová mine of the Hornonitrianske Bane Prievidza (HNB) mining company at about 8:30 in the morning on August 10. The explosion happened after mine rescuers had been deployed to extinguish a fire in an abandoned mining tunnel.

The victims of the tragedy are 11 mine rescuers and nine miners who were extinguishing a fire that broke out 300 metres underground at 7:00 on Monday morning in a part of the mine where coal extraction was finished on June 17, the SITA newswire reported.

Official reports stated there were 20 unaccounted miners after the explosion. Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek and the director of the HNB company, Peter Čičmanec, announced to a briefing of journalists in Handlová on the evening of Monday August 10 that most likely none of the unaccounted employees survived the explosion.

Six bodies were found around 65 metres from the supposed epicentre of the explosion. Even 14 hours after the explosion the conditions in the area were incompatible with life, with high temperatures, a low concentration of oxygen and levels of carbon dioxide so high that it could not be measured, the SITA newswire reported.

“According to the mining rescuers who are still underground, these conditions would not allow any of the men to survive,” Jahnátek said.

The bodies of six victims were removed from the most dangerous area overnight on Monday but they remained within the mine on Tuesday morning. During the overnight hours the rescuers had also found the body of a seventh victim, said the spokesperson for HNB, Adriana Siváková.

The rescue operations continued throughout the entire night, with three units of mine rescue employees taking part.

Nine miners who suffered injuries in the explosion were treated in the Bojnice hospital but none of them required hospitalisation, the hospital’s director, Ladislav Gerlich, told the Sme daily.

“Gas exploded there; it doesn’t happen very often, all the safety measures were fulfilled,” Patrik Rajchmaj, one of the miners who was in the mine at the time of the explosion told Sme.

Siváková said that it was probably an explosion of secondary flammable gases which accumulated in the mine because of the fire. The mine is thought to be totally destroyed.

The government announced that it will meet at an extraordinary session to announce a state mourning period.

Viera Tomanová, the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, said her ministry will provide a lump sum of €800 for the families of the victims.

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