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Coal miners rescued after tunnel collapse

World Coal,

29 Bosnian coal miners have been rescued from a mine after two tunnels collapsed. Five men remain trapped below ground, as union leaders accuse management of mishandling the situation.

Union leader at the Raspotocje mine, Mehmed Oruc, said two tunnels collapsed following a gas explosion, which was triggered by a minor earthwuake that hit near the nearby town of Zenica.

22 other miners were able to escape from the pit after the tunnels first collapsed, with two men seriously injured.

The coal mine has been troubled regularly by similar incidents, and this tunnel collapse and gas explosion is the third such incident in 2014 alone. Just 4 weeks ago, 16 miners were hurt in a serious gas explosion.

Union leaders and family members have said mine management should have handled the latest crisis better, particularly in light of news managers at first claimed only eight workers were trapped inside the pit. According to numerous sources, authorities only brought rescue equipment to the mine seven hours after the blast.

Due to the delay and mismanagement on behalf of the authorities, the miners trapped underground were forced to spend the Thursday night 500 m trapped below ground.

Esad Civic, manager of the mine, said rescue efforts had been halted as rescuers are unable to reach the remaining five men. He also rebuffed accusations of mismanagement and insisted that “mine accidents can’t be avoided”.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Civic did concede that the Raspotocje mine – once one of the most modern in Europe – was far from world class following the 1992 – 95 war that impoverished the country.

Muris Tutnjic, one of the miners who escaped on Thursday, came to the site on Friday to show his support. He said the underground blast "just blew us away."

"I was alone [...] Thank God I managed to pull myself out," Tutnjic told the Associated Press. "My colleagues [...] they were some 200, 300 maybe 400 metres away from me, they got covered."

Of the five men still below ground, authorities believe the worst may have happened.

Regional governor, Nermin Niksic, said: "This accident is a big tragedy for the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Unfortunately five lives were lost.”

"We share the pain of the families of miners who have died," he added.

Due to lack of rescue equipment, the rescuers of the 29 miners often had to resort to basic methods:

"We were digging with hands and throwing coal everywhere. We were even putting it into pockets, on the sides," one of the rescuers said.

"The trapped miners were also digging on their side. When there were only five metres to dig, we heard them. We then pushed them a pipe in which we poured water and they were drinking on the other side. Then we made a hole just sufficient for them to pass through," Savudin Dizdarevic explained.

Niksic praised the rescuers for "making superhuman efforts to save their comrades".

BBC correspondent, Guy Delauney, said it was “heartbreaking” to witness news break that five miners remained trapped below ground – presumed dead – following previous reports that all miners were alive and well. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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