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Five Bosnian miners confirmed dead

World Coal,

Bosnia is mourning the deaths of five miners who were trapped below ground last week in a coal mine after two tunnels collapsed.

An earthquake, which struck close to the town of Zenica, triggered a gas explosion at the Raspotocje mine and the ensuing tunnel collapse trapped 34 miners 500 m below the surface.

In the third serious mining accident at the coal mine in 2014 alone, emergency workers reached the body of the last victim after 80 hours digging through tight underground corridors filled with methane.

29 miners had previously been rescued, although criticism has been aimed at mine management and mining authorities, who took seven hours to call in emergency mine rescue equipment.

The mine management team also initially said there were far fewer miners trapped underground than there actually were.

"Just a few days ago we were celebrating his new job, and now we are burying him," said Damir Bradarac, who attended the funeral of his cousin Hajrudin Bradarac, who was killed at the mine four days after he started work there.

According to Reuters, a day of national mourning has been declared in Bosnia’s autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation, where the mine is located.

The Raspotocje mine produces coal for Bosnia’s largest power utility, EPBiH, and employs 430 miners. Experts have called the mine the most dangerous in Bosnia, due to frequent rock bursts caused by tremors.

"Our miners can no longer work at such depths," said Sinan Husic, the head of the Federation miners union, who said he would seek new funds to improve safety at the mine.

The mine had been among the best equipped in the area before the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, but was damaged in the Bosnian war and has not been substantially upgraded since.

Some of the miners who survived the Thursday's accident said they feared to return to work at the same pit.

"I am scared. Each day flashbacks are ever more terrible," said Edmir Camdzic, 33, who sustained injuries to the neck and head in the accident. "I still cannot think about what to do next, whether I'll return to work or not."

Esad Civic, manager of the mine, caused ire among miners, union officials and worker’s families when he said that “mine accidents can’t be avoided”.

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.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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