Seven miners were killed and another 19 are missing “after an explosion rocked a Massey Energy underground coal mine” in southern West Virginia this afternoon. The explosion took place at 3 pm at Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine-South between the towns of Montcoal and Naoma. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow dedicated the beginning of her program to covering the disaster, interviewing veteran Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward, Jr., and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) by telephone. Listen to Ward reporting on the tragic details slowly emerging from the mine:
This Massey disaster is on the scale of the 2006 Sago Mine disaster which killed 13 people, the worst coal mine disaster in the United States since the Farmington Mine disaster of 1968, which killed 78 miners. “It’s very emotional, very powerful, very awful, and finally very Appalachian,” Sen. Rockefeller told Maddow. He concluded:
Of all the glory of West Virginia characteristics of fighting and climbing hills all the time, this is the tragic part.
Watch the interview:
This tragedy is the latest deadly disaster to involve coal baron Don Blankenship’s Massey Energy. In 2006, two miners died in a fire at Aracoma Mine after Blankenship personally waived company policy and told mine managers to ignore rules and “run coal.” “In the past year, federal inspectors have cited Massey and fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious safety violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at the mine run by subsidiary Performance Coal Co.,” the Associated Press reported. “The violations also cover failing to follow the ventilation plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up, and having improper firefighting equipment.”
7:12 AM, Tuesday: The Associated Press reports that the death toll is now twenty-five:
It is the most people killed in a U.S. mine since 1984, when 27 died in a fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah. If the four missing bring the total to 29, it would be the most killed in a U.S. mine since a 1970 explosion killed 38 at Finley Coal Co., in Hyden, Ky.