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12 Jun, 2008 00:25

Hopes fade for missing Ukrainian miners

Rescuers say they've given up hope of finding alive 12 miners missing after a blast at a coalmine in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine on Sunday. The head of the investigation committee believes they were at the epicentre of the explosion and wouldn't

The methane explosion at the colliery trapped 37 miners underground. Twenty-four were rescued on Monday, and the body of another one was recovered.

Rescue work will continue until the missing 12 are found.

The recovery effort is being hampered by water which has flooded the mine.

Most of the rescued miners are being treated for gas poisoning and coal dust inhalation.

Meanwhile, investigators blame the mine's management for the blast – they say work there was banned because of poor safety conditions.

“The explosion was the result of the ignition of a dust-air mixture, which was prompted by work in the section that should have been off-limits. The Ukrainian State Industrial and Labour Safety and Mining Overseeing Committee had prohibited coalmining in the section and sealed access.

The seals were torn off after a decision of the mine's management and work continued. This is the reason for the explosion,” said the head of the government investigation commission, First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Turchinov.

The Karl Marx plant is more than a hundred years old, like many in Ukraine's mining hub in the east of the country. It was a loss-maker, suffered from underinvestment and had outdated safety equipment.