A death toll of 13 from Sunday''s explosion at Jim Walter Resource Inc.''s Blue Creek No. 5 mine was confirmed on Tuesday, making it the deadliest mining accident in the United States since 1984.
Jim Walter Resources said that two underground explosions an a fire occurred in what is described by the company as the nation''s deepest vertical shaft coal mine.
By about 6:30 a.m. on Monday, conditions in the mine made additional underground rescue efforts impossible due to fires, elevated methane and carbon monoxide, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
In joint decision by the four parties involved in the recovery effort (Jim Walter Resources, the United Mine Workers Association (UMWA), the State of Alabama and MSHA), water is being pumped into the area to extinguish fires.
As of Tuesday afternoon, approximately 3.9 million gallons have been pumped into the area at a rate of about 4,300 gallons per minute, MSHA said.
MSHA''s mobile gas analysis van is on-site. The agency is collecting and analyzing air samples from the mine to determine the concentrations of methane, carbon monoxide and other gases.
The concentrations of gases indicate the conditions present within the mine. MSHA said the analysis of mine gases will indicate when a reentry would be safe.
MSHA Administrator Dave Lauriski, visited the mine Tuesday. He offered condolences and pledged that MSHA will continue to offer official technical assistance as long as necessary.
Lauriski met with officials represent Alabama, UMWA and Jim Walter Resources.
The Alabama mine, about 40 miles west of Birmingham, reported 9.97 accidents with serious, nonfatal injuries every 200,000 hours worked last year, according to MSHA statistics. That is 20 percent more than the national rate of 8.3 accidents with such injuries.
by Virginia Foran