23 miners reach surface after explosion in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Emergency workers on Monday rescued 23 miners found alive following a powerful explosion at a coal mine in Ukraine, but one miner was confirmed dead and 13 were missing, an official said.

Emergency workers went deep into the mine in the Donbass coalfield to rescue survivors of Sunday's methane blast. They helped two reach the surface Monday morning, and by nightfall had brought all 23 to safety, said Maryna Nikitina, a spokeswoman for Ukraine's industrial safety watchdog agency.

Rescuers also recovered one body, Nikitina said.

She said rescuers would continue searching for the missing miners through the night.

The state-run Karl Marx mine — where another explosion killed seven in 1999 — had been declared too dangerous to operate, and the miners trapped by the blast were underground to improve safety conditions, officials said.

Officials said 37 miners were working 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) underground at the time of the explosion, which injured five workers above ground, destroyed several small buildings and shook the windows of the mine's administrative offices.

The explosion occurred at a depth of about 1,750 feet (500 meters), Nikitina said.

Hopes for survivors rose when rescue teams heard voices as they tried to reach trapped miners through a damaged shaft Sunday. Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchynov said the ventilation system in the mine was still working.

Ukraine has some of the world's most dangerous mines because of outdated equipment and poor safety standards. Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, more than 4,800 miners in Ukraine have been killed. Officials say that for every 1 million tons of coal brought to the surface in Ukraine, three miners lose their lives.

The mine is in the coal-rich Donetsk region about 400 miles (650 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Kiev.