Rescuers reach 4 of 10 miners missing at coal mine in Poland

Rescuers going to join the search action for 10 miners gone missing after a powerful underground tremor and methane gas discharge at the Borynia-Zofiowka coal mine in Jastrzebie-Zdroj, southern Poland, Saturday, April 23, 2022.

WARSAW (AP) — Rescue workers in southern Poland have reached four of the 10 miners who went missing early Saturday after a powerful underground tremor and methane gas discharge hit, mining authorities said. It was the second coal mine accident this week in Poland.

The condition of the four was not immediately released and officials said there was no verbal contact with any of the missing miners. The rescue team could not immediately bring the four to the surface and more teams will be sent to the area, said Edward Paździorko, deputy head of the Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa company (JSW) that operates the Borynia-Zofiowka mine.

The accident occurred at 3:40 a.m. Saturday some 900 meters (2,950 feet) underground, forcing dozens of workers to flee the mine and leaving authorities unable to contact 10 miners. It was the second colliery accident in just four days in the coal mining region around the town of Jastrzebie-Zdroj, near the Czech border.

Repeated methane blasts since Wednesday at the nearby Pniowek mine have killed five miners, left seven miners and rescue workers missing and injured dozens of others. The search for those missing at Pniowek was suspended Friday after new explosions late Thursday injured 10 rescue workers, some seriously.

Both mines are operated by JSW.

The company said 52 workers were in the area of the tremor Saturday at the Borynia-Zofiowka mine and 42 of them were able to leave the shaft on their own without injury. A rescue operation involving 12 teams was launched for the missing miners but authorities said they had to work carefully due to the high levels of methane still in the mine.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Twitter that this was “devastating news again” from the mining region and said his prayers are with the missing and their relatives.

He said the accidents will be thoroughly investigated and procedures and equipment at the mines will be examined.

Poland relies on its own coal and coal imports for almost 70% of its energy needs, drawing criticism from the European Union and environmental groups who are concerned about CO2 emissions and meeting climate change goals. Most Polish coal mines are in the southern Silesia region.

The Polish government has been scaling down the use of coal and recently announced it would end coal imports from Russia by May, part of Poland’s drive to reduce its dependence on Russian energy in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.