War-Torn Ukraine's New Woe: Trapped Miners
One confirmed dead in underground explosion
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2015 2:48 AM CST
A woman reacts as she walks past pro-Russia rebels guarding the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk, Ukraine, today.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

(Newser) – An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn in war-torn eastern Ukraine today, killing at least one miner and trapping more than 30 others underground, rebel and government officials say. The explosion at the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk, an eastern city under separatist control, occurred more than 3,280 feet underground as 230 workers were in the mine, separatist authorities said in a statement. They said the blast was not caused by shelling and blamed a mixture of gas and air—a common cause of industrial mining accidents. The speaker of Ukraine's parliament, Volodymyr Groysman, says he can confirm only one death, backpedaling on an earlier claim that 32 miners had died. It was unclear what his source for the information was, since rebel authorities do not answer to the government in Kiev.

Rescue operations were continuing and at least 157 workers had been evacuated from the mine. One lightly wounded miner being evacuated, who gave his name only as Sergei, told the AP that he saw five bodies being pulled out, but provided no further details. Meanwhile, the two sides bicker: Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says rebels had prevented a team of 60 Ukrainian rescue workers from reaching the mine to provide assistance. But leading rebel representative Denis Pushilin denies that Ukrainian authorities had offered any help. "If we truly need assistance, we will turn to Russia," Pushilin was quoted as saying by the Donetsk News Agency.