March 3 (UPI) — A methane explosion killed at least eight coal miners and injured six others on Thursday about 1,600 feet underground in western Ukraine’s Lviv region.
Ukrainian emergency officials said about 34 miners were working in the area of the Stepnaya mine in Lviv’s Sokal district. Officials said the explosion triggered a cave-in. Authorities rescued 20 miners trapped by the explosion hours later.
There were 172 miners working in the Stepnaya mine at the time of the explosion. The Stepnaya mine is considered highly dangerous due to high levels of methane, Lviv region official Oleg Sinyutka said.
Ukraine’s energy sector is under a state of emergency due to a lack of coal needed for electricity and heating. Most of Ukraine’s coal comes from the rebel-held east. Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary fighters, with the support of some lawmakers, imposed a blockade on railroads to prevent the sale of coal — arguing trading with rebels is treason.
The Ukrainian government has urged the militants to leave the railroads. Pro-Russian rebels have since taken control of several businesses in eastern Ukraine following the blockade in attempts to pressure the militants to leave.