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I was making a mess of my previous diary so decided to start fresh with a new one.

I had also hoped to start with some good news, any news, on potential survivors of the WV mine explosion this afternoon, but alas CNN is now reporting 25 miners were killed and 4 are still missing.

The explosion occured at Massey Energy subsidiary Performance Coal Co.'s Upper Big Branch Mine-South in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

CNN just reported (thanks to noweasels):

The death toll from Monday's West Virginia mine explosion rose to 25 early Tuesday morning, the mining company said.

Rescue efforts to reach four miners who were still missing at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia, were suspended due to conditions underground -- but were expected to resume as soon as conditions allow, said the Massey Energy Company.

Kevin Stricklin of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said that a number of SCSR breathing devices were taken from an area inside the mine after the blast.

This, Stricklin, said gave officials hope that miners who survived the initial explosion may have made their way to the cache and taken them to help them breathe easier.

He could not say how many such devices were taken.

Another press briefing is scheduled for 3 a.m.

The identities of the killed, injured or missing have not been released to the general media. However, AP is reporting that Benny R. Willingham, 62, who was five weeks away from retiring, was among those killed. He had mined for 30 years, the last 17 with Massey. Family members were angry because they learned of Willingham's death after reading it on a list Massey posted, instead of being contacted by the mining company, which said it wouldn't release names until next of kin were notified.

The West Virginia Gazette is reporting that the explosion probably occurred near shift change as a crew was exiting the operation in an underground mine vehicle. (The exact time, as reported by various news sources has been anywhere between 3 - 4:30 pm.) Two crews and a safety inspector who had been working alone were believed trapped about a mile and a half inside the mine entrance, and rescuers were hoping that they made it to one of two nearby airtight chambers, which would give them enough air, food and water to last up to four days. But the blast knocked out all underground communications, and there was conflicting information late Monday night about whether any of the nine rescue teams said to be on site had actually entered the mine yet.

The mine is in a very remote area and cell phone service is also very spotty.

The cause of the explosion has also not been determined. However, several experts have indicated the explosion was probably caused by methane gas that built up inside a sealed area of the mine or that leaked through mine seals. The mine was recently cited for ventilation and dust problems, as well as some other serious safety infractions. Methane gas is the most common cause of mine explosions.

West Virginia Gazette also reported:

Outside the Upper Big Branch site, witnesses reported seeing smoke billowing from the mine, and several miners apparently escaped after donning their emergency breathing devices... A crew of miners exiting on a mantrip felt a large blast of air. The men were not seriously harmed and went back to try to rescue their fellow workers, Stricklin said. They found nine workers, seven of whom were dead. Two others were airlifted out of the area for medical treatment...More than two dozen ambulances were staged in Whitesville, and crowds of residents lined the streets waiting for word on the potential disaster. Authorities had gathered families of the miners at a Baptist church in Whitesville and at a training building on the mine property, officials said.

Massey Energy, and its CEO Don Blankenship, are well known to dKosers. Massey is extremely anti-union and has a history of violent clashes with organized labor. It also has a long history of safety violations, worker injury and worker deaths. In the past year alone, federal inspectors  cited Massey and fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at the Upper Big Branch site run by subsidiary Performance Coal Co. The violations also cover failing to follow the plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up, and having improper firefighting equipment. Time will tell whether safety violations were the cause of today's tragic events.

All we can do now is pray and wait.

Originally posted to Mr Rick on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 10:42 PM PDT.

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