6 Apr 2010

Search halted amid fears of more explosions at mine

7:29 pm on 6 April 2010

Twenty-five miners are now known to have died and four are missing after an accident at a coal mine in the United States.

The accident was caused by an underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine 50km south of Charleston in West Virginia, the BBC reports.

The blast happened about 3pm on Monday local time, causing the roof to collapse.

The number of fatalities makes this the worst mine disaster in the United States since 1984.

Rescue efforts have been suspended. Safety officials said rising methane gas levels had heightened the risk of another explosion.

The operation would resume as soon as conditions allowed, the mine's owner Massey Energy said.

One injured man is in intensive care and medical teams are on stand-by to treat others.

Officials say four miners are still unaccounted for, but there was not much hope of finding them alive as they did not appear to have reached chambers which could have provided them with extra oxygen.