Slovak coal mine blast traps 19 miners, 9 injured

BRATISLAVA, Aug 10 (Reuters) – Nineteen miners were missing after an explosion at a coal mine in northern Slovakia on Monday trapped them underground and cut off contact, a spokeswoman for the mining company said. The explosion at the Handlova mine, some 195 km (120 miles) northeast of the capital Bratislava, may have been caused by gas, the miner Hornonitrianske Bane Prievidza said. The company, which is the biggest miner in the central European country with a 66 percent market share in sales, said there had been a fire in an old shaft earlier in the morning.

“We lost telephone contact at around 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) and sensors monitoring the level of mine gases stopped working,” spokeswoman Adriana Sivakova said. “On the basis of information from witnesses, there probably was an explosion of secondary flammable gases that had amassed after the fire,” she said. “We have failed to renew contact with 18 employees.” She said there was no word on their condition. Nine other miners suffered light injuries and were being treated in hospital.

Slovakia had several smaller mining accidents in the past years.

In November 2006, four miners died in a tunnel in the nearby mine in Novaky. A 41-year-old miner was killed when a large piece of loosened coal fell on him in the Handlova mine in October 2007. Prime Minister Robert Fico was headed to the site of the accident, the government office said.

(Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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