President expresses sympathy to families of mining accident victims
Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, has expressed his sympathy to the families of four miners and a member of a rescue team who lost their lives in a mining disaster early on Wednesday morning.
The five were killed by two apparent methane explosions at the Pniowek coal mine in Pawlowice, southern Poland. A rescue operation was still underway on Thursday afternoon in the hope of finding alive seven miners still trapped below ground.
Duda travelled to the mine on Thursday to meet the rescue teams and, later, with journalists.
"I would like to convey through the media my condolences to the relatives of the miners and the rescuer who died," he said.
"Everything indicates that this is the worst disaster in the history of this mine," Duda added.
On Wednesday, Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW), the owner of the mine, reported that a build-up of methane gas had probably exploded just past midnight, about 1,000 metres below ground as 42 miners worked the night shift.
The second blast apparently occurred at 3 am when rescuers were in the area searching for missing miners.
By 10 am on Wednesday, 21 of the 42 miners had been transferred to hospitals, most of them with burns to the respiratory tract.
Thirteen teams are engaged in the rescue operations in the area, JSW said.
Throughout the night, rescuers had worked hard to reduce the concentration of dangerous gasses so they could continue the search. This involved the construction of a fan and a duct to allow the injection of clean air.