Death toll rises to 18 from Polish mine accidents; 7 missing

The death toll from disasters in two Polish coal mines rose to 18 after the bodies of four missing miners were found Wednesday.

The rescue operation at the Borynia-Zofiowka mine in southern Poland ended after the last miners missing after a tremor and methane gas discharge on Saturday were pronounced dead. They brought the total number of deaths to 10.

Meanwhile, the toll from a series of methane explosions at the nearby Pniowek mine last week rose to eight after a hospitalized worker died Tuesday night.

Seven other miners and rescuers remain missing at that mine, but the search for them was suspended when subsequent blasts injured 10 rescue team members.

Nineteen people remained hospitalized with burns. Partitions are being built to seal off the blast area from the rest of the mine.

Prosecutors have opened investigations. The mines are operated by the Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa company, or JSW.

Most Polish coal mines are in the southern Silesia region. Many mines have a high methane content in the rock.

Some 70% of Poland’s energy comes from coal, a proportion that has been sharply criticized by the European Union and environmental groups who are concerned about CO2 emissions and meeting climate change goals.

Poland has been trying to scale down its use of coal. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently said Poland has stopped coal imports from Russia and its ally Belarus in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

For years Poland has been reducing its dependence on Russian energy sources that was built in communist-era times before 1990, when Poland was Russia’s satellite.

Russia stopped delivering natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday. Polish leaders said the country was well prepared to end its use of Russian gas.


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