Mine explosion in Ukraine kills 63; dozens missing

>DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) – A methane blast ripped through a coal mine in eastern Ukraine early Sunday, killing at least 63 miners in the ex-Soviet nation’s worst mining accident in years, emergency officials said.

More than 360 miners were rescued but 37 others remained trapped inside the mine – one of Ukraine’s largest and deepest – with a raging fire hampering efforts to save them, officials said.

The explosion occurred around 3 a.m. more than 3,300 feet deep inside the Zasyadko mine in the regional capital Donetsk, the heart of the country’s coal mining industry, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Authorities evacuated 367 miners. Twenty-eight were hospitalized, the ministry said.

The accident – the worst in Ukraine in seven years – highlighted the lack of attention to safety in a country with some of the world’s most dangerous mines.

President Viktor Yushchenko blamed his Cabinet for not doing enough to reform coal mining and ordered an official panel to investigate the accident and bring those responsible to account.

Local authorities declared three days of mourning for the dead miners.