In yet another tragic blow to the underground working community, it has been confirmed that 25 miners have been killed in an explosion, 330m below ground, at the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine, 50km south of Charleston. Rescue attempts have already been suspended for fear of rising methane initiating another blast.
Mine owner Massey Energy Company has said rescue operations would continue as soon as it is safe to do so.
In an attempt to monitor the gas levels, and ventilate the blast area, boreholes will be drilled to the blast location.
Barack Obama has offered his “deepest condolences” to the families and friends of the deceased.
“The federal government stands ready to offer whatever assistance is needed in this rescue effort,” the President said at the White House.
The explosion happened during a shift change, as 29 workers were being transporting out of the mine.
Steve Smith, who was entering the mine several miles away the blast occurred told local news reporters, “The farther we got down the track the more the wind picked up and… before you knew it, it’s like your ears stopped up, you couldn’t hear, and the next thing you know, you’re in the middle of a tornado,”
“Since we weren’t that far underground… we just hurried up and high-tailed it back to the outside.”
Ron Wooten, State mining director, said rescuers had not “given up hope at all”.