ZENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Thirty-four miners were trapped Friday deep inside a coal mine that collapsed in central Bosnia, officials said. They confirmed the miners were alive and had air for now.
The union leader at the Zenica coal mine, Mehmed Oruc, said two tunnels in the mine collapsed Thursday evening following a gas explosion triggered by a minor earthquake that had hit the area near the town of Zenica.
Oruc said the miners are more than 500 meters (1,600 feet) underground, but are alive and have enough air. He added that rescuers are hopeful the miners will be brought out soon.
He said 22 other miners managed to leave the pit after the tunnels collapsed, although two were injured.
Oruc said rescuers are working around the clock to reach the trapped miners and have another 20 meters (65 feet) to dig through.
This is the third incident in the same mine since the start of the year. A total of 16 miners were hurt in two previous gas explosions, the most recent less than four weeks ago.
Anxious family members gathered at the entrance to the mine awaiting news. They accused the management of poor response, particularly in initially claiming that only eight people were trapped inside the pit.
“This is shocking, it is traumatic,” said Rasid Fetic whose two nephews, both in their mid-20s, are trapped inside the mine.
Fetic said managers were “philosophizing” while miners’ families waited for their loved ones to be rescued.
“I think they are gathering information for a report on damage to the mine, but not about the humans inside,” he added.
The Zenica coal mine was the site of one of the greatest mining tragedies in Bosnia’s history, when 39 miners were killed in a gas explosion in 1982.