Rescuers were continuing to search today for 34 miners trapped underground after a powerful explosion ripped through a coal mine in eastern Ukraine.
Salvage teams have saved two miners and recovered one body since the blast at the Karl Marx Mine in the eastern Donetsk region early yesterday.
The miners were making repairs to improve safety conditions, working some 3,300ft (1,000m) underground, when the methane explosion occurred.
Deputy prime minister Oleksandr Turchynov told Ukrainian television yesterday that rescue teams heard the voices of some of the trapped miners when they attempted to get to them through a damaged shaft.
He said “there is hope they are alive”, adding that the ventilation system in the mine is still working.
The blast also injured five workers who were working above ground. They were taken to hospital with severe burns, said Maryna Nikitina, a spokeswoman for Ukraine's industrial safety watchdog agency.
The state-run mine – where another explosion killed seven people in 1999 – had been declared too dangerous to operate, and the trapped miners were underground to improve safety conditions, officials said.
Ukraine has some of the world’s most dangerous mines because of outdated equipment and poor safety standards. Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, more than 4,800 miners in Ukraine have been killed. Officials say that for every 1 million tons of coal brought to the surface in Ukraine, three miners lose their lives.
Coal-rich Donetsk is about 400 miles (640km) south-east of the capital, Kiev.