WARSAW, Poland (AP) — New methane explosions rocked a coal mine in southern Poland late Thursday, injuring 10 rescuers who were preparing to search for seven people missing since two blasts killed five a day earlier, officials said.
The new explosions raised to 32 the number of people hospitalized from injuries in blasts at the Pniowek mine since Wednesday.
The state Supreme Mining Authority said the latest explosions caused no fatalities. Reporters at the mine saw an airborne ambulance and other ambulances come to the site.
Head of the regional ambulance service, Lukasz Pach, said seven people were hospitalized after the new blasts, three of them in serious condition but conscious. Three others received medical care on the spot and were sent home.
Earlier Thursday, the JSW company that operates the mine had said rescue crews were pumping air underground seeking to lower methane levels and reduce the risk of further blasts in the area of the search.
It said then that 25 people who were injured in the explosions Wednesday remained hospitalized, nine of them in very serious condition at a hospital in Siemianowice Slaskie that specializes in treating mine accident victims, especially those with severe burns.
Seven miners and rescue personnel were missing from the blasts Wednesday.
The initial explosion took place shortly after midnight early Wednesday about 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) underground at the mine in Pawlowice, near the Czech border.
Three hours into the rescue operation, a larger, second blast occurred. Communications were lost with some of the rescuers, and the operation was suspended.
Preparations for the search to resume were suspended after Thursday’s blasts, JSW said.
Poland relies on its own and imported coal for almost 70% of its energy, drawing criticism from the European Union and environmental organizations concerned about CO2 emissions and climate change.
Most coal mines are in the southern Silesia region. Many are at risk of explosions from the sudden release of methane gas.
The government has been actively scaling down the use of coal and recently announced it would end coal imports from Russia by May. The action is part of Poland’s drive to wean off dependence on Russian energy sources, but also comes in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
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