Eight people have died and another 18 have suffered injuries after a shaft collapse at the Soko coal operation in central Serbia.
According to reports by the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, the collapse trapped the miners and also released methane into the operation’s workings, suffocating those that perished. The incident occurred around 4:00 a.m. local time 1 April at the state-owned mine in Aleksinac, when there were 49 miners working underground.
An investigation has commenced into the cause of the collapse.
“Inspectors, police and all relevant authorities are at the scene, doing what is necessary to determine the cause of this tragedy,” Mining and Energy Minister Zorana Mihailovic said.
Soko mine manager Drago Milinkovic said initial information indicated the methane release was sudden and called his mine a “dangerous” operation.
“Soko [is]…dangerous from the aspect of methane,” he said. “Security measures are at the highest level in the coal mine, but this time there was a sudden release of methane and simply the monitoring and the equipment that were in place did not help.”
Soko has had several serious accidents since commencing operations, including a 1998 incident that killed 29.