WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A powerful underground tremor and methane gas discharge hit a second coal mine Saturday in southern Poland, forcing dozens of workers to flee the mine and leaving authorities unable to contact 10 other miners still missing, officials said.
The accident at 3:40 a.m. Saturday at the Borynia-Zofiowka mine occurred 900 meters (2,950 feet) underground. It was the second colliery accident in just four days in the coal mining region around the town of Jastrzebie-Zdroj, near the Czech border.
Repeated methane blasts since Wednesday at the nearby Pniowek mine have killed five miners, left seven miners and rescue workers missing and injured dozens of others. The search for those missing at Pniowek was suspended Friday after new blasts late Thursday injured seven rescue workers, some seriously.
Both mines are operated by the Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa, or JSW, company.
The company said 52 workers were in the area of the tremor Saturday at the Borynia-Zofiowka mine and 42 of them were able to leave the shaft on their own without injuries. A rescue operation was launched for the 10 missing miners.
By late Saturday afternoon, rescue workers were 600 meters (yards) from the site of the tremor and advancing slowly toward where the missing were expected to be, the JSW company said. But it added that high levels of methane in the area could pose a danger and required caution from the rescue team.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Twitter that this was “devastating news again” from the mining region and said his prayers are with the missing and their relatives.
Poland relies on its own coal and coal imports for almost 70% of its energy needs, drawing criticism from the European Union and environmental groups who are concerned about CO2 emissions and meeting climate change goals. Most Polish coal mines are in the southern Silesia region.
The Polish government has been scaling down the use of coal and recently announced it would end coal imports from Russia by May, part of Poland’s drive to reduce its dependence on Russian energy in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.