Eight miners killed, 15 trapped underground after suspected gas explosion
Eight miners were killed and fears were growing for 15 others trapped 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) underground by a suspected gas explosion in southern Poland, a mine official said.
The accident happened as the men were demolishing a wall in an underground corridor at the Halemba coal mine in the city of Ruda Slaska on Tuesday, the Southern Mining Company said. The cause was unclear.
"Eight are dead," Jan Sienkiewicz, spokesman for the Halemba coal mine, told The Associated Press.
He declined to give details.
An official for Central Mining Rescue Station, which is leading the search, said the eight bodies were being brought to the surface. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to announce the fatalities.
Southern Mining Company spokesman Zbigniew Madej said 15 rescue workers were digging their way through 500 meters (yards) of rubble in the hope of finding survivors but said ventilation systems had been damaged.
"The situation is very, very serious," he said at a televised news conference.
Sirens could be heard in the background of TV broadcasts from the scene. Mine officials and priests were seen talking to people seeking information about missing relatives.
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was flying to the mine in support of the rescue operation, his spokesman Jan Dziedziczak said.
TVN24 reported that a local hospital was preparing to receive the victims.
The mine lies in the Silesia region, the heartland of Poland's sizable coal industry.
Labor unions complain that a lack of investment and massive layoffs in recent years have resulted in falling safety standards.
Earlier this year, a miner was rescued at the Halemba mine after he spent five days underground following a gas explosion.
More than 80 miners have been killed in Poland's coal and copper mines since 2003.