Image Source: Screen capture from YouTube video.

Yesterday, an explosion in a West Virginia coal mine killed 6 miners and 21 were still missing. Today, the death toll has risen to 25 and now 4 miners are missing.

The underground blast in the Upper Big Branch mine was blamed on methane gas and according to safety officials, this particular mine has a history of violations for not properly ventilating the methane in the first place. Unfortunately for the other 4 miners, their chances of survival are becoming rather bleak at this point. Rescuers have been held back by poisonous gases that have gathered near the site of the explosion, but they have at least one plan to deal with that problem.

They plan to drill 3 shafts, each going down more than 1,000 feet (308.4 m) to release the methane and carbon monoxide gases that are keeping them from continuing the search. State Governor, Joe Manchin, stated that it could take at least 12 hours before the drilling was finished and rescue teams could resume the search (which won’t be until at least 6 p.m.). Manchin also added:

“It’s going to be a long day and we’re not going to have a lot of information until we can get the first hole through.”

There were 31 miners in the area during a shift change when the explosion happened. Of the 25 casualties, only 11 bodies have been recovered and identified—the other 14 were not. Also, 3 of the dead are all from the same family. The hope that the 4 missing miners may have taken cover in one of the emergency airtight chambers is also dwindling. These chambers are stocked with food, water, and can keep the miners alive for up to 4 days. However, rescuers already checked one of the chambers near the site and it was empty. Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration official, Kevin Stricklin, commented that:

“All we have left is hope, and we’re going to continue to do what we can; but I’m just trying to be honest with everybody and say that the situation does look dire.”

For more information on the search and the explosion, check out this article. You can also check out a YouTube video with a previous count here.

By Heidi Marshall