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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

23 Miners Are Found After Ukrainian Blast

ReutersA rescued Ukrainian miner being carried to the hospital in Donetsk on Monday. Thirteen miners remained missing.
DONETSK, Ukraine -- Rescue workers found 23 miners missing underground after a gas explosion at a Ukrainian colliery and were bringing them to safety on Monday through a narrow ventilation shaft.

They were searching for another 13 still missing hundreds of meters underground after Sunday's explosion.

Officials overseeing rescue efforts in the Donbass coal field initially announced that two miners had been brought to the surface more than 24 hours after the blast caused widespread damage to the Karl Marx pit. One man was found dead.

Rescue teams later located 21 more miners and began the laborious process of evacuating them through the ventilation shaft after the main shafts were badly damaged.

By midafternoon, officials said six miners had been lifted to the surface at the pit in Yenakiyevo, northeast of the regional center, Donetsk. One was in serious condition.

A view of the Karl Marx pit Monday.
"This is a narrow shaft and the process is going to take a long time, several hours," said Marina Nikitna, spokeswoman for the regional mine safety inspectorate. "We hadn't even dared hope for this number."

First Deputy Prime Minister Oleksander Turchynov, the most senior government official at the site, said rescuers using the ventilation shaft had now reached 1,000 meters below ground, where the explosion had occurred. "We will talk about people being saved only once they are safe on the surface," he told reporters.

Gas explosions are a frequent occurrence in Ukraine's mines, many of which are unprofitable and date from the 19th century.

The first two miners to be rescued were found 750 meters underground at the mine, in operation for the past 110 years.

"Those further away from the explosion could have survived. It's less likely for those closer to the shaft," survivor Nikolai Vitenko told Channel Five television.

"There was a young guy sitting by the water pump. It was as if his head had been blown off," he said. "We survived simply because we were further away. There was huge destruction. Carts and pipes were blown apart."

Five staff members on the surface suffered burns and other injuries after being struck by equipment tossed about in the explosion, described by veteran miners as one of the most powerful experienced in the industry.

The Karl Marx mine was one of 23 where work had been suspended to check on documented safety violations and only restoration and repair work was permitted. Officials said such work was being conducted Sunday and that dangerous concentrations of gas had been detected shortly before the blast.