Friday, January 20, 2006

Bad News On The Doorstep

Two missing this morning in an underground coal mine fire in West Virginia. Apparently 19 miners walked out safely.

Latest and most complete information I find at the moment is on CBS News.

The men have been missing for over 20 hours as of mid-afternoon and, unlike the situation at Sago, unfortunately rescuers have confirmed an active fire:

"We're making an effort here to contain the fire. We've seen it from a couple of different places but we don't know the extent of it," [West Virginia mine safety chief Doug] Conaway said.

Underground coal mine fires can be very difficult to contain because the coal is combustible. Sometimes the only way to put out the fire is to seal the mine and pump in inert gases such as carbon dioxide. That's what happened at the Wilberg mine fire in Utah in December 1984, which claimed 19 lives.

But we should keep hoping for the best.

MSHA's database shows that the mine had three violations for accumulations of combustible materials in the month of the December. While there can be lag time for information getting onto the database, two of those are currently showing as uncorrected. MSHA also cited violations of standards on mine ventilation, electrical safety, firefighting equipment and others.

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