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Four dead in mine explosion

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, March 4
Four miners died and one was injured in an explosion in a coal mine in Tkibuli late on March 2. Rescue teams arrived from Tbilisi and Kutaisi to clear the mine and make sure there were no more victims. They tried to free trapped miners all night.

“There was a breakdown signal at the head office so a rescue team was sent to the spot at once. I was also with the specialists’ team and we all faced the terrible reality at the mine,” Avtandil Bochoridze, Deputy Director General of Saknakhshiri, the company which owns the mine, told the media

An investigation into the incident has already been launched by the General Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Interior Affairs but no specific details have been revealed yet. According to preliminary reports a methane gas leak caused the explosion. Lasha Makatsaria, the Governor of Imereti Region, has said that everything will be done to support the families of the victims. “We have already discussed the issue of financial support with the company. Saknakhshiri will compensate the families of the victims and cover the treatment of the injured miner,” Makatsaria said, stressing that his office will also assist the families in due course.

Saknakhshiri, which is a daughter company of the Georgian Industrial Group, has been working the Tkibuli mine since 2006. Zaza Sadunishvili, Executive Director of the Georgian Industrial Group, said that the reason for the explosion will be known when a special commission set up by the Georgian Prime Minister completes its work. Pavle Kublashvili, Tkibuli’s Parliament Deputy, expressed his condolences to the affected families. “This is a terrible tragedy, and we hope that the injured miner’s life will not be in danger. These people have been working at the mine for years and preliminary information suggests that the accident was caused by methane inflammation,” Kublashvili told the media.

The victims of the Tkibuli explosion have been identified. The bodies of 67-year-old Mizdon Oniani, 54-year-old Giorgi Bregadze, 29-year-old Murman Kublashvili and 72-year-old Jumber Jishiashvili have been sent to the morgue. Beso Zosiashvili, the injured man, was transferred to the Kutaisi National Centre for Interventional Medicine in a serious condition. He was found by his father at the mine after the explosion. Demetre Zosiashvili said that he had immediately rushed to the spot when he heard the blast and found his son dangling from the stairs. “Everything is being done to save the miner’s life despite his great injuries, especially around the head and face, but we have got all the medical resources to fight for his life,” Zaza Nuralidze, General Director of the medical centre stated.

Nika Gilauri, the Prime Minister of Georgia, visited the mine and explained his decision to set up a Government Commission which will study the causes of the explosion in detail. Gilauri expressed his condolences to the families and stressed that the Government will provide them with financial support. “The Government Commission will investigate the incident in detail. No negligence is presumed to have occurred, but if anything criminal did take place all those responsible will be identified,” Gilauri said. He added that measures will be taken to prevent such fatal accidents occurring in future. “It is important first of all to provide security for the people who create the wealth of the country,” the Prime Minister concluded.

President Mikheil Saakashvili has declared March 4 a national Day of Mourning following the tragedy. Through his Spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze he told the media: “The Tkibuli mine has been working for the last several years producing higher loads than it did in the Soviet period. Everything has been done to bring in new technologies and permanently re-equip the mine. We must do our best to prevent such accidents in future.” Manjgaladze added that the flags on all State buildings will be flown at half mast as a sign of mourning on March 4.