An accident at a coal mine in Serbia has killed eight miners and injured 18 others.
The accident at the Soko coal mine, about 200 kilometers southeast of the capital Belgrade, happened shortly after 4 a.m. on Friday when part of the mine collapsed, releasing methane inside and trapping minors, public television RTS said.
The Serbian Minister of Mines and Energy said that it seems that the miners are suffocating from too much methane gas. Officials said an investigation was underway to determine exactly what happened.
“Inspectors, police and all relevant authorities are on the scene, doing what is necessary to determine the cause of this tragedy,” said Minister of Mines and Energy Zorana Mihailovic.
MIhailovic visited the scene on Friday and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, pledging help from the state. She denied reports of an explosion.
“Unfortunately, eight miners suffocated,” Mihailovic said.
Sudden release of gas
The Soko mine has experienced several serious accidents since its commissioning in the early 1900s. An accident at the mine in 1998 killed 29 miners.
Drago Milinkovic, the manager of the Soko coal mine, said early reports suggested there was a “sudden release of methane” in the mining area.
“The Soko coal mine is a dangerous coal mine, dangerous from a methane perspective,” he said. “Safety measures are at the highest level in the coal mine, but this time there was a sudden release of methane and just the monitoring and equipment that was in place didn’t help.”
Doctors in nearby Aleksinac, where injured miners were taken, said most injuries were not serious. Municipal authorities have decreed that a day of mourning will take place on Saturday.
Near the mine, the stunned inhabitants stood in silence. A miner who only identified himself by his first name, Milan, said he usually worked the night shift.
“I changed teams because of my family,” he said. “It could have been me.”