Explosion kills dozens of coal miners in Ukraine

  • Updated: November 18, 2007 - 5:40 PM

DONETSK, UKRAINE - A methane blast ripped through a coal mine in eastern Ukraine early Sunday, killing at least 63 miners in the nation's worst mining accident in years, emergency officials said.

More than 360 miners were rescued but 37 remained trapped in the mine -- one of Ukraine's largest and deepest -- with a raging fire hampering efforts to save them, officials said.

The explosion occurred about 3 a.m. more than 3,300 feet deep inside the Zasyadko mine in the regional capital of Donetsk, the heart of the country's coal mining industry, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Vitaliy Kvitkovsky, a miner in his 30s, said he had to walk over the bodies of dead colleagues to climb to the surface through dust so thick "that I couldn't see anything."

President Viktor Yushchenko ordered an investigation, and local authorities declared three days of mourning.

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