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Accidents

Rescuers work to free trapped Bosnian miners

Emergency workers in central Bosnia are working to free 34 miners who became trapped underground after a coal mine collapse. Two tunnels caved in after a small earthquake in the region triggered an explosion in the mine.

The gas explosion in the Raspotocje mine was caused by a 3.5 magnitude earthquake that struck near the town of Zenica, north west of Sarajevo, on Thursday night. Authorities said two miners were injured in the blast.

"The rescuers are deploying superhuman efforts to save their comrades. We have just spoken with them. They confirmed they are all together and doing well," regional prime minister Nermin Niksic said.

The manager of the Raspotocje coal mine, Esad Civic, told the AFP news agency there had been 56 miners underground at the time of the explosion, and 22 of the group had successfully made it to the surface.

"34 are still in the affected zone...We are communicating with them. They are doing well and have enough clean air to wait for the arrival of rescue teams," he said.

The miners are trapped more than 500 meters (1,600 feet) below the surface, in a tunnel that was not affected by the gas explosion, according to the mine's union leader Mehmed Oruc. Rescue workers are digging through to the group, in an operation that is expected to take several hours.

The tunnel collapse is the third incident at the mine so far this year. Sixteen miners were wounded in two previous gas explosions - the most recent less than a month ago.

The Raspotocje mine produces coal for Bosnia's largest power utility, EPBiH. It was also the site of a gas explosion which killed 39 miners in 1982.

nm/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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