After Russian mine tragedy, here's a closer look at the 10 biggest coal mine accidents till date

At least 52 people, including six rescuers, are reported to have died owing to a gas leak in a Siberian coal mine, making it the one of the worst mining disasters since Soviet times

FP Staff November 26, 2021 15:49:34 IST
After Russian mine tragedy, here's a closer look at the 10 biggest coal mine accidents till date

Representational image. Reuters

More than 50 people were reported to have died on Thursday after smoke filled a Siberian coal mine and a rescue effort ended in tragedy. Russian news agencies quoted local authorities as saying that 52 people were dead, including miners and six rescuers who had been part of an aborted search operation.

In light of this recent tragedy, here's a look at the worse coal mine accidents:

Benxihu Colliery Disaster - China

The Benxihu colliery disaster occurred on 26 April 1942 in the Honkeiko coal mine, located near Benxi in the Liaoning province of China. It led to the deaths of 1,549 lives and is believed to be the worst coal mining disaster ever.

The fatal explosion of the underground coal mine was caused by a mixture of gas and coal dust. Gas exploded in one of the shafts on April 26, 1942, and sent flames bursting out of the entrance.

It took 10 days to clean out the shaft as corpses were carried out in carts to a mass grave. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition. After the disaster, the mine continued to be operated by the Japanese until August 1945, when the miners took control of the site following the Japanese surrender.

Courrieres Coal Mine Disaster – France

The Courrieres mine disaster in France, occurred on 10 March 1906 in the Courriers mine located near the Pas-de-Calais hills in northern France. The disaster caused the deaths of 1,099 people, becoming Europe’s worst mining disaster.

Many of the miners were killed by the flames. Some were suffocated or killed by poisonous gases, while others were crushed. Additional workers outside the mine lost their lives because of the huge impact of the explosion.

Mitsubishi Hojyo Coal Mine Disaster — Japan

Another gas explosion, this time at the Mitsubishi Hojyo coal mine in Kyushu, Japan, killed 687 workers on 15 December 1914. The disaster went down in history as Japan’s deadliest mine accident.

The blast, which blew elevator cabs nearly 50 feet into the air, affected people within a 200 metre radius of the mine's entrance and killed 687 miners.

Laobaidong Coal Mine Disaster — China

On 6 May, 1960, a methane explosion at the Laobaidong coal mine in the Northern Chinese province of Shanxi left 684 workers dead. The Chinese government kept information about the explosion secret until 1992.

Mitsui Miike Coal Mine Disaster — Japan

Nearly 50 years after the Mitsubishi Hojyo explosion, an accidental explosion at the Mitsui Miike coal mine in Kyushu, Japan left 458 people dead either due to the explosion itself or from carbon monoxide poisoning. Another 839 people were injured as a result of the 9 November 1963 explosion.

Most of the poisoned survivors suffered severe brain damage. Miike was one of the oldest and largest coal mines in Japan.

Senghenydd Colliery Disaster – United Kingdom

On October 13, 1913, an explosion at the Senghenydd colliery killed 439 miners and one rescuer, making the disaster the worst mining accident in the United Kingdom.

The fatal disaster was a result of a coal dust explosion in the underground mine. Most of the miners who survived the fire and explosion were killed due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Coalbrook mine disaster – South Africa

A cave-in on 21 January, 1960 at the Coalbrook North colliery in South Africa was responsible for the deaths of 435 workers. There were no survivors, nor were any machines able to drill holes large enough to perform a rescue.

The underground collapse was caused by the disintegration of around 900 underground pillars supporting the tunnel roofs.

Around 1,000 miners were at work underground at the time of the collapse. Half of them could survive by escaping via an incline shaft.

Wankie Colliery Disaster – Zimbabwe

A series of underground explosions at the Wankie No 2 colliery in Rhodesia, which is now known as Zimbabwe, killed 426 people on 6 June 1972. The explosion turned into a blast that devastated the main shaft. Four men were killed instantly near the surface. More than 400 mine workers trapped amid rock and deadly methane and carbon monoxide fumes died in the underground.

Oaks Colliery Explosion – United Kingdom

The United Kingdom’s second-worst mining disaster. Oaks Colliery explosion took place on 12 December 1866 at the Oaks Colliery, near Stairfoot, Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, where 388 people died.

Dhanbad Coal Mine Disasters – India

On 28 May 1965 an explosion at in Ghori Dhori near the town of Dhanbad killed 375 workers. Ten years later on 27 December 1975, another disaster struck the Chasnala colliery, near Dhanbad. The Chasnala mining disaster killed 372 people.

With inputs from agencies

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