As the death toll climbs to 29, President Obama wants answers about the West Virginia mining disaster in a report next week. There will also be congressional hearings. Sadly, there is no hope of finding survivors. “We did not receive the miracle that we prayed for,” Gov. Joe Manchin told reporters. More on the tragic tale under the hood.
Searchers found four bodies deep in a West Virginia coal mine shattered by an explosion, raising the death toll to 29 and ending an excruciating week for families holding onto faint hopes that their missing miners had somehow survived.
Crews are to soon begin the bleak task of carrying out 22 bodies from Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch mine, though officials said Saturday no timetable has been set. Seven bodies had already been removed soon after Monday’s blast, making it the worst U.S. coal mining disaster since a 1970 explosion killed 38 in Hyden, Ky.
The investigation into the company that has an extensive list of safety violations at the mine also will begin with President Barack Obama wanting some answers in a report next week and Congress planning hearings.
The discovery of the final four bodies ended days of futile searches by rescue crews that repeatedly battled a volatile mix of poisonous gases and thick smoke that turned them back on three previous attempts. The massive blast also left the inside of the mine a mess of twisted tracks, boulders and debris.
“We did not receive the miracle that we prayed for,” Gov. Joe Manchin told reporters after meeting with relatives to deliver the news. “So this journey has ended and now the healing will start.”
Initially, 25 men were known to have perished and two men survived. That left four unaccounted for, resulting in an agonizing week for relatives and officials who hoped the miners had somehow managed to find refuge chambers stocked with food, water and oxygen. But none of the mine’s refuge chambers had been deployed.
“The rescue workers told us they’re sure no one suffered,” Manchin said.
The mission now is to bring out all the bodies through miles of debris, which will take some time, officials said.
There was no immediate announcement Saturday from Massey on when that would be completed.
This is so sad.
Our prayers are with the miners’ loved ones.