May 6, 2018 / 11:24 AM / 20 days ago

One miner dead, three still missing after quake at Polish coal mine

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By Marcin Goettig and Pawel Sobczak

WARSAW, May 6 (Reuters) - Rescue teams have confirmed the death of one Polish coal miner and can see another miner trapped after an earthquake, but it is not known if he is dead or alive, the chief executive of mine owner JSW said.

Three other miners remain missing after Saturday’s tremor caused part of the tunnel they were working in to collapse, the chief executive, Daniel Ozon, told reporters.

Ozon told reporters it could take four to five hours for rescuers to reach the trapped miner they can see, who is stuck in debris in a tunnel.

The 3.4 magnitude quake hit the Borynia-Zofiowka-Jastrzebie coal mine in southern Poland on Saturday morning, initially trapping seven miners at a depth of about 900 metres (2,950 feet). Two miners were rescued on Saturday.

The two rescued miners were taken to a hospital in Jastrzebie-Zdroj city in “relatively good condition” and could walk unaided, Ozon told reporters on Saturday.

There were about 250 people working in the mine at the time of the quake, JSW said. The missing miners were from a team of 11 that was drilling a new tunnel. Four escaped by themselves.

The 200-person rescue operation was earlier hampered by high levels of methane, which reached a concentration of up to 58 percent.

A spokeswoman for JSW, the European Union’s largest coking coal producer, said earlier that the quake had damaged communications lines in the area.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who reached the mine on Saturday evening, said the rescue operation was very difficult and that he hoped the remaining miners would be saved. President Andrzej Duda reached the mine on Sunday noon.

Polish state mining supervisor WUG said the quake was of a type that can occur in coal mines after the removal of deposits builds up tensions in the rocks. (Reporting by Marcin Goettig and Pawel Sobczak; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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