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All Trapped Polish Workers Rescued After Mine Collapse

posted 20 Mar 2013, 06:25 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 20 Mar 2013, 06:26 ]

Polish officials confirm at a news conference that 19 trapped miners were pulled alive from a copper mine in southern Poland.

POLKOWICEPOLAND (MARCH 20, 2013) (REUTERS) -  All 19 miners were pulled out alive and well from a copper mine insouthern Poland on Wednesday (March 20) after a small earthquake trapped them 600 metres below the surface late the previous night.

It took seven hours to tunnel through collapsed rock to reach the miners who were working at the Rudna copper mine in southern Poland when a small tremor trapped them there at 10:09 pm (2109 GMT) on Tuesday.

"The complication of today's rescue operation was that all the roads leading to the third segment, Polkowice-Sieroszowice, were caved in after the rupture. There was no information, communication was down, there was no contact with 19 people," said head of Rudna mine, Miroslaw Laskowski at a news conference inPolkowice.

Two workers were treated for minor injuries, while the others, shaken up and covered with grime after a gruelling night, were on their way home.

"The organisation (of the rescue operation) was unusually efficient. The rescue teams were at the caved in tunnel in ten minutes. Ten minutes after 22:09 (21:09 gmt). So the head of the mine deserves praise and great thanks on behalf of all Poles and most of all, the families of the miners. Thanks for such an efficient operation, that in literally a few hours it was possible to rescue 18 people," said Polish treasury minister Mikolaj Budzanowski.

Families of the miners, who gathered near the mine, cheered when the mine's operator, KGHM, announced that all 19 were found alive and were slowly being taken out through a hole dug by the rescuers.

"Immediately after getting out to the surface, some of the miners went to the washrooms, changing rooms and later went home. One of the miners for various reasons had to be taken to hospital in Glogow. I can say that he does not have any serious injuries and I think it's possible he will leave hospital even tomorrow," said KGHM chief executive Herbert Wirtt.

The Rudna mine is about 400 km (249 miles) southwest of the Polish capital. Officials with KGHM had previously said there were 18 miners trapped in the pit.

After the quake on Tuesday, workers on the surface lost contact for several hours with the trapped miners because communication lines into the shafts had been severed.

The mine is in the Silesia region, near Poland's borders with Germany and theCzech Republic. It has been in operation since 1974. State-controlled KGHM isEurope's second-biggest copper producer.

Poland has large numbers of mines, mostly in the heavily industrialised Silesia region. In 2006, a gas explosion at a coal mine in the region killed 23 miners.