An explosion at the Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia has killed 25 miners and left four unaccounted for in the aftermath of the deadliest U.S. mining disaster in 25 five years.
An explosion took place at shift change Monday afternoon. Rescue efforts have been hampered by a dangerous buildup of methane and carbon monoxide in the tunnels. Bore holes have been drilled in an attempt to release the poisonous gases.
According to Kevin Stricklin of the U.S. Mine and Safety Health Administration, it may be days yet before rescue workers are able to get to the trapped men. He acknowledged that “the situation certainly does look dire.” See his video news conference below.
Grieving family have continued to gather at the site of the massive blast, many clutching photos of their loved ones. Some cling to hope that the four missing miners will be found alive.
Michelle McKinney gave an impassioned plea on CNN for information regarding her father Bennie Willingham – photo below. She indicates that she has not been contacted by Massey and is desperately seeking answers.
Michelle is angry that she had to find out from a local official at a nearby school that her 62-year-old father had perished in the blast. She said, “These guys, they took a chance every day to work and make Massey big. And they couldn’t even call us.” Bennie was slated to retire in a few weeks and the family had booked a cruise for Willingham and his wife as a surprise gift.
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin said on Tuesday, “There’s a shred of hope. It might be a shred, but we still believe in the miracle.”
President Barack Obama issued the following White House statement: “Prayers are being offered for the safe return of the missing as well as the rescuers. May all of the miners families find comfort in the days ahead.”
More photos and video coverage below: