Rescuers Find 2 Coal Miners Alive in Poland; 5 Missing

Two missing coal miners were found hurt but conscious after a quake struck a mine Saturday in southern Poland, and scores of rescue workers were still trying to reach five other missing miners, a Polish mining company said. 

The rescue operation was launched at 11:25 a.m. Saturday after a temblor occurred at the Zofiowka coal mine, said Katarzyna Jablonska-Bajer of the Jastrzebie Coal Company. The mine is located in the southern town of Jastrzebie-Zdroj near Poland’s border with the Czech Republic. 

She said four miners were quickly brought to the surface but contact was lost with seven others who were 900 meters (2,950 feet) underground, preparing a new corridor for extraction work. 

Poland’s State Mining Authority said the temblor had a magnitude of 3.4, while the European Mediterranean Seismological Center pegged it at 4.3 magnitude. TVN24 said the quake was also felt on the surface and shook some houses. 

“There has never been such a powerful quake at the mine,” Jablonska-Bajer said

High methane levels in the mine delayed rescuers’ effort to reach the accident site for several hours. The two miners were brought to the surface and ambulances took them to the hospital.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who arrived at the mine Saturday night, said almost 90 rescuers were working nonstop and using the best equipment to reach the missing miners but were running into blocks of rubble.

“We are doing everything to save the miners,” he told reporters.

Miners’ relatives gathered in front of the mine Saturday, waiting for the latest information, while the families of the missing were brought into the building. 

Coal mining is a major industry in Poland. Coal remains the main source of energy and heating in the country, but Poland is taking some steps to shift toward renewable, cleaner sources of energy.

The Main Statistical Office said 65.8 million metric tons of coal were extracted last year in Poland, 4.8 million less than in 2016.

Many of Poland’s mines are dangerous, with methane gas that has led to a number of deadly explosions and cave-ins. 

So far this year, four miners have been killed at different coal mines, according to the State Mining Authority.

In 2016, eight miners were killed in a cave-in at the Rudna mine in Polkowice, and methane explosions killed five miners at the Myslowice-Wesola mine in 2014.