The Daily Telegraph
39 MEN ENTOMBED BY PIT EXPLOSION.
FAINT HOPE OF RESCUE.
Thirty-nine miners were entombed by an explosion at the Haigh Pit, Whitehaven, Cumberland, yesterday morning. By ten p.m. nineteen bodies had been recovered. They were found so far from the actual site of the explosion that it was thought impossible for any of the other men to be alive.
The workings run under the sea, and the disaster took place a mile and a half from the pit mouth. Heavy falls of roof and the presence of deadly fumes made the work of the rescuers extremely difficult and dangerous, but all day relays of men struggled to reach their imprisoned comrades. As one party retired gassed, exhausted, and baffled, another took its place. There was never a lack of volunteers.
Adjoining the Haigh Pit is the Wellington Pit, where 136 lives were lost in 1910. There is communication between these pits, but a heavy fall of roof cut off escape that way. A father and his two sons were among the victims.
FINE RESCUE WORK.
The town of Whitehaven, in Cumberland, has again been stricken by a serious colliery explosion, as the result of which a heavy death-roll is feared, wires a Barrow correspondent. The scene of the explosion, which occurred between nine and ten yesterday morning, is about a mile and a half from the shaft, and in the deepest part of the Whitehaven Colliery Company’s new Haigh Pit, the workings known as the Six Quarters seam. The news soon spread throughout the town and district, and created consternation amongst the wives and families of the miners, who with crowds of other people flocked to the pit-head and lingered there all day.
The explosion occurred during the first shift, and thirty-nine men were entombed. Eighty men were employed at the pit. Every effort is being exercised to reach the unfortunate miners; but the rescue parties at once encountered serious difficulties, and Mr. Robert Steele, the works manager of the collieries, and several other men who had been straining every effort to effect a rescue, had to be brought up the pit quite early suffering from the effects of gas. There were plenty of volunteers, however, and men using the “Mecco” apparatus descended and spent several hours in a valiant attempt to cut their way through the heaps of debris thrown down by the explosion. Their work was very trying and arduous owing to a heavy fall impeding their progress and to the foul gases.
Haigh Pit adjoins the Wellington Pit, the scene of the disaster of 1910, when 136 lives were lost. About a fortnight ago communication was established between the two pits. It was hoped that some of the men had escaped by this means into the other pit, but it was soon discovered that a heavy fall had occurred on both sides of the scene of the explosion, so that this means of egress had been cut off. Three bodies were recovered within a comparatively short time. Two men who had been working a considerable distance away from the spot where the accident occurred were found dead, which indicated the terrible character of the explosion. One man was brought up alive, but was so exhausted that he died on the way to the infirmary.
Early in the evening the rescue parries were reported to be making satisfactory, if necessarily slow, progress, because of the heavy gas and the enormous difficulties in timbering the demolished workings as they proceeded. Their heroic work evoked general admiration. Some of the men returned to their task of mercy after being twice gassed. It was then confirmed that hopes of escape via the Wellington Pit were futile, as the rescuers in that mine found the drift blocked by heavy falls. Then the worst fears of those acquainted with such operations were realised, as between four and six p.m. the Haigh rescue party recovered six more bodies of men who obviously were overwhelmed some distance from the scene of the explosion. The total death-roll was then nine.
Nineteen bodies had been brought to the surface at ten o’clock, and it was stated that operations would be continued throughout the night for the recovery of the remainder. This task was expected to be completed by this morning.
MILE UNDER THE SEA.
As soon as the disaster was made known the rescue brigade of the Cumberland Coalowners’ Association and others from adjoining pits were quickly on the scene. Time and time again the rescuers were driven back by the thick fumes, and Mr. Cook, one of his Majesty’s inspectors of mines, and Mr. Robert Steele, the general manager, were both gassed, and had to be taken to hospital.
It is thought that the cause of the explosion was an accumulation of black damp. The exact spot of the explosion is estimated to be about a mile under the sea, which would account for its not being heard in Whitehaven, although surface workers heard a low ominous rumbling.