DONETSK, Ukraine – (Reuters) – Thirty-three miners were confirmed dead late on Wednesday after a coal mine blast in the rebel-held city of Donetsk near the battle front in eastern Ukraine, indicating no one trapped in the rubble survived.
Mine officials said the explosion was most likely caused by gas and not fighting in the war between Moscow-backed rebels and Ukraine government forces. Nevertheless, Kiev suggested the war had made the disaster worse, accusing the separatists of holding up a rescue effort by restricting access.
Outside the gates of the Zasyadko mine, about 30 relatives clamored for information about any survivors. Sergei Baldayev, a miner injured in the blast, mingled with the crowd, his face covered in scratches and one arm hanging motionless by his side, the result of a broken collarbone.
The sister of one miner who was in the pit at the time of the explosion, Alexei Novoselsky, stood in tears. “Tell me, are there survivors? Why are you concealing the truth?” she asked as a rescue worker tried to calm her. The Donetsk regional administration said 16 injured people were in hospital.
Earlier in the day, after the body of one miner had been retrieved, the emergence services said 32 people remained trapped in the mine. But hour after hour the death toll kept rising.
“The total deaths amount to 33 people,” Interfax news agency reported, citing the region administration’s press service.
Eduard Dmitrenko, a miner who went down the affected shaft after the blast, said it was unlikely any of the missing miners would be found alive. “But they will of course find bodies,” said Dmitrenko, his face covered with coal dust.
Trucks and buses were driven to the mine in preparation for transporting the bodies to local morgues.
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