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News 05 Sep 14

Five Killed in Bosnia Coal Mine Collapse

Five Bosnian miners died after an earthquake caused tunnels to collapse at a colliery in Zenica, but 29 others who were trapped underground have been freed.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo
  Rescuing the miners in Raspotocje Photo by AP/Amel Emric

The miners’ union announced the deaths on Friday after a dramatic rescue operation at the Raspotocje mine in Zenica that managed to save the lives of most of the men who had been trapped underground since the earthquake the previous day.

“Unfortunately I knew this before but did not have the strength to tell you - 29 miners got out, these five did not; they did not survive,” said Sinan Husic, the president of the miners’ union in Bosnia’s Federation entity.

One of the miners who was trapped underground said that he and his colleagues had done everything they could to save the men who died.

  Photo by AP/Amel Emric

“It was very, very hard, the rooms [in the coal seam] down there were destroyed, the transport passage... We couldn’t get through to them... We managed to provide them with them air, we had communication with them,” said miner Sedin Tufekcic.

The men who survived were transported to Zenica hospital for treatment.

After the earthquake on Thursday afternoon caused two underground tunnels to collapse, rescue crews worked through the night to reach the trapped miners on Friday morning, while the miners themselves made efforts to make an escape route by clearing the rubble brought down by the earthquake.

Federation entity Energy Minister Erdal Trhulj said the authorities would try to do all they can to help the families of the five miners who died, but earthquakes were impossible to avoid.

“This is a natural disaster,” he said.

“Miners know how much was done in the last few years on modernizing work and increasing their safety,” Trhulj said.

Raspotocje was also the scene of one of the country’s worst mining disasters in 1982, when 39 people were killed.

  Photo by AP

It has also been the scene of more recent accidents: in March 2010, 13 miners were injured in a rock fall, and in December 2011, 11 were hurt in a similar accident.

In March this year, another 11 were hurt in rock falls, while in August, five were injured because of underground quakes.

Husic told the Klix news portal that mining inspectors would find out what exactly happened in the latest accident, but said that “safer methods have to be found”.

He said that over the last two years there had been some investments in the mine, but it was not enough. 

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