W.V. Mine Blast Kills 25, Hope Running Out For Trapped Miners

April 6, 2010

(ChattahBox)—The personal stories are heartbreaking. A lifelong coal miner just weeks away from retirement, looking forward to an island cruise with his wife, perished in the West Virginia Big Branch mine explosion on Monday. Another miner survived, but lost his son, older brother and nephew in the deadly methane gas explosion. Family members are in agony, waiting for the remaining bodies to be identified. And hoping against hope that the four trapped miners are alive and one of their own. But Kevin Stricklin of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, was only able to provide families with the barest glimmer of hope for the survival of the trapped miners. “The situation is dire,” he said.

“Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville, W.V., has a spotty safety record with its levels of methane gas in its mines, according to MSNBC:

“In the past year, federal inspectors fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at Upper Big Branch. The violations also cover failing to follow the plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up, and having improper firefighting equipment.”

The explosion on Monday, killing 25, is the worst mining accident since the early 80s, when 27 miners died in a fire in a Utah mine. And if the four missing miners are found dead, the death toll of 29, would make the Big Branch explosion the worst mining accident, since 38 people perished in a Kentucky mine in 1970.

The high methane gas levels, forced rescue workers to leave the mine early Tuesday morning. All that can be done now, is to continue drilling to release the dangerous methane gas and wait for the mine shaft to become sufficiently ventilated, so rescue operations can resume.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin promised an investigation. “I don’t know what happened,” Manchin said. “We’re going to find out and do everything in our power to never let this happen again.”

Don Blankenship, chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, confirmed the reported dead and missing “with a heavy heart.” “Our top priority is the safety of our miners and the well-being of their families,” Blankenship said in a statement.

But the families of the dead and missing are suffering from agonizing grief and they want answers. Soon after the explosion, a Facebook page was created, which now has thousands of members filling the page with condolences and angry comments over Massey Energy’s poor safety record.

And to add insult to injury, the front page of Massey Energy’s Web site, makes no mention of the deadly Big Branch mining explosion, but instead touts improvements in its 2009 safety record.

President Obama On Monday, “promised to make every asset available,” to Gov. Manchin.

Source: ABC News

Photo Credit: Screen grab from ABC News.


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