PM pays tribute to victims killed in mining accident
Poland's prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has visited a coal mine where five people were killed in apparent methane explosions on Tuesday night, paying tribute to the four miners and one rescuer who lost their lives.
The five were killed in blasts at the Pniówek coal mine in Pawłowice, southern Poland. A rescue operation was still underway on Wednesday afternoon in the hope of finding alive miners still trapped below ground.
"I am lost for words because we already know that five people are dead, seven are still trapped in the mine," Morawiecki said during his visit to the site of the disaster. He added that over 20 people were hospitalised with severe burns.
Morawiecki said rescuers had gone into the mine to retrieve trapped colliers following the first blast but that a second explosion had occurred around 3 a.m., cutting off several rescuers and leaving many miners with burns.
"I express my deepest sympathy with all the families, and those who are still hoping because that hope must last until the very end," he continued. "I also want to say that the whole of Poland is with you in thought, in deepest sympathy."
Earlier in the day, Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW), the owner of the mine, reported that methane gas had probably ignited just past midnight, about 1,000 metres underground.
The second blast occurred when rescuers were in the area searching for missing miners.
Morawiecki said that a team was working on when it would be possible to enter the walkways where the remaining miners were trapped, in order to conduct further rescue operations with a minimum risk to rescuers.
"This terrible tragedy at the Pniówek colliery shows that a miner's work is not only a terribly hardship but also exposes them to danger," Morawiecki continued, adding that coal miners had worked for Poland and for Poles for many decades. "On such a tragic day we should embrace them with our thoughts, prayers and remember the great hardship that goes with their work," he said.
The prime minister went on to assure victims' families that the state would support them.
"The state will not leave the families of people who have died or are severely injured without psychological or financial aid," he said, adding that the injured would receive the best possible treatment in order to increase the likelihood of "winning this fight for the lives of miners and rescuers."