UPDATE: The death toll in the explosion at the Massey Energy Co. Upper Big Branch mine now stands at 25 miners. Four other coal miners are unaccounted for. High levels of methane gas and carbon monoxide forced rescue teams to leave the mine early this morning. It is unclear when rescue and recovery efforts will resume. Holes must be drilled from 1,200 feet above to help ventilate the mine.
An explosion at a Raleigh County, W.Va., coal mine late this afternoon killed six miners and 21 other coal miners remain unaccounted for, according to news reports. The Associated Press reports that the blast occurred at Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch mine
Mine rescue crews, including those from the Mine Workers (UMWA), were dispatched to the mine. There are no further reports about the missing miners.
The nonunion mine is operated by Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co. In a statement, UMWA President Cecil Roberts says, “hearts and prayers of all UMWA members are with the families of those lost today. “
He says the mine rescue teams are “putting their lives on the line, entering a highly dangerous mine to bring any survivors to safety.”
As a mine operated by a subsidiary of Massey Energy, the Upper Big Branch mine is a nonunion mine. Nevertheless, I have dispatched highly trained and skilled UMWA personnel to the immediate vicinity of the mine, and they stand ready to offer any assistance they can to the families and the rescuers at this terrible and anxious time. We are all brothers and sisters in the coalfields at times like this.
The AP reports that three miners have been killed at the mine since 1998, the most recent in 2003, when an electrician died after being electrocuted while repairing a shuttle car there.
We will follow the rescue efforts and bring you updates.