By Wojciech Zurawski
POLKOWICE, Poland, March 20 - 19 miners were pulled alive
and well from a copper mine in southern Poland on Wednesday
after a small earthquake trapped them 600 metres below the
surface late the previous night.
It took seven hours to tunnel through collapsed rock to
reach the miners who were working at the Rudna copper mine in
southern Poland when a small tremor trapped them there at 10:09
pm (2109 GMT) on Tuesday.
Two were treated for minor injuries, while the others,
shaken up and covered with grime after a gruelling night, were
on their way home.
Families of the miners, who gathered near the mine, cheered
when the mine's operator, KGHM, announced that all 19
were found alive and were slowly being taken out through a hole
dug by the rescuers.
"This was the biggest accident in KGHM history," Chief
Executive Herbert Wirth told Reuters. "Never in our history has
it happened that 19 miners were trapped with no contact."
The Rudna mine is about 400 km (249 miles) southwest of the
Polish capital. Officials with KGHM had previously said there
were 18 miners trapped in the pit.
After the quake on Tuesday, workers on the surface lost
contact for several hours with the trapped miners because
communication lines into the shafts had been severed.
The mine is in the Silesia region, near Poland's borders
with Germany and the Czech Republic. It has been in operation
since 1974. State-controlled KGHM is Europe's second-biggest
Poland has large numbers of mines, mostly in the heavily
industrialised Silesia region. In 2006, a gas explosion at a
coal mine in the region killed 23 miners.