August 11, 2009 / 11:53 AM / 9 years ago

Slovakia to investigate mine blast, 7th body found

BRATISLAVA, Aug 11 (Reuters) - The Slovak government will launch an investigation into a coal mine explosion which probably killed 20 workers, Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Tuesday, a day after the country’s deadliest mining accident.

Fico reiterated there was no chance of finding survivors from Monday’s accident at the Handlova coal mine, about 195 km (120 miles) northeast of the capital Bratislava, which was thought to have been caused by combustion gases after a coal fire. [ID:nLA309676].

“I have asked the economy minister to open an independent investigation regardless of the one to be conducted by the district’s Mining Office,” Fico told journalists after an extraordinary cabinet meeting.

“We can confirm the seventh body of a mine worker, besides the six bodies found yesterday by midnight, has been found.”

Rescue teams found the bodies around 65 metres (213 ft) from the centre of the blast, after searching in poor visibility and high temperatures.

Privately-held Hornonitrianske Bane Prievidza, the country’s biggest mining firm which owns the Handlova pit, said the explosion tore through an unused section of the mine, about 330 metres below the surface, at 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Monday.

Fico’s government, in power since 2006 with an agenda to help the poor left behind by belt-tightening reforms of the previous administration, said there would be financial compensation for the victims’ families.

Slovakia will hold a national mourning day for the blast victims on Wednesday. Mining accidents in the country have killed 12 people in the past dozen years. (Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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