Thirty-two miners in eastern Ukraine were missing and feared dead Wednesday following an explosion at a coal mine in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.
The blast took place at Zasyadko mine in the rebel hub of Donetsk, near the city’s war-wrecked airport.
The chairman of Ukraine’s parliament, Volodymyr Groysman, announced 32 miners killed in what he called a “terrible tragedy”.
“There are victims, currently numbering 32,” Groysman told the assembly, calling on lawmakers to observe a minute’s silence.
Mykola Volynko, head of the Miners’ Union of Donbass, which covers the eastern region, confirmed that figure.
“At the moment we know of 32 people dead. We don’t know how many people are still in the mine,” he told AFP.
But Grosyman later cast doubt on the fate of the miners, telling MPs that, “according to the latest information”, 32 miners were unaccounted for, but that only one was confirmed killed.
A spokesman for the Trade Union of Coal Miners in Ukraine told AFP that two bodies had been brought to the surface so far.
Rescue workers were trying to locate a further approximately 45 miners, said the spokesman who did not wish to be named, adding the chances of finding them alive were “practically zero”.
A spokeswoman for the ministry of emergency situations of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told AFP there were still scores of people trapped in the shaft.
“At the moment there are still 70 people underground but the situation is constantly changing as we bring people to the surface,” spokeswoman Julia Bedilo said, blaming the blast on trapped methane gas.