Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Segodnya on Zasyadko disaster

Today's big-selling 'Segodnya', owned by Rinat Akhmetov, pulls no punches in its reporting on the Zasyadko mine disaster in Donetsk. Its lead story is "Widow of miner says: 'They killed my husband for 2000 hryven', after Zasyadko mining disaster
Yesterday's catastrophe on the Zasyadko mine could be the worst in Ukraine's entire history. Who is guilty? Natural forces [stikhiya] again?

Below are portions of the article:

Wives spoke directly and to the point, and cursed the mine's management. "My husband in a month earns only 2000 hryven. Lord, do not bring it about, but if they killed him for this money, then I will bite Zvyagil'sky myself, even if only his leg (Zvyagilsky is the honorary President of Zasydko mine). I will bite him. I swear, I could not kill him - his guards would not allow it, but I could bite him!" said miner's wife Natalie Piskun.

In the opinion of prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, who arrived at the place of the tragedy, most likely its cause was the sudden release of methane: "All this again shows that the man is powerless in the face of such natural forces [stikhiya]. This occurs all over the world." ....

Donetsk miners told us, often the explosions of methane occur because sensors which detect the level of methane, are deliberately 'de-tuned' in order to understate the level of dangerous gas. "While the methane content is higher than standard, coal cannot be extracted. It is necessary to wait until the work site is ventilated, but this means that less coal will be dug, on which wages depend, and the main thing is revenue for the owner of mine," explained a former electrician from the mine Vladislav K. The Zasyad'ko mine employees do not blame the board of directors directly, but they assert that "recommendations" usually come from middle managers.

According to Vladislav, he repeatedly encountered the practice of the "introduction of corrections" into the work of sensors. Most frequently instruments that measure methane are simply placed on the ground where there is less harmful gas, and if this does not help they they are disconnected. Sometimes a sweater is simply hung over the instrument.

Those who do not want to do this kind of thing are quickly dealt with. "Once a section chief asked me, why is the coal cutting combine not working? I answered, that the gas situation does not make it possible to conduct work. After several days they transferred me to another section where they pay two times less. My place was taken, it seems, by a more compliant fitter." According to the miner, several months after this, an explosion took place in his former section, killing 20 of its friends.

Another miner says new equipment is now installed in the mine, and the measurement data is fed to the surface dispatcher, but if it is desired, it is possible "to correct" the data there.

The 'Segodnya' article does temper these statements a little, suggesting that the explosion may indeed have been caused by and unexpected release of methane.

The edition even ran most of BYuT's statement on the tragedy which says priority number one should be safety of working in mines. Normally Segodnya is disparaging in its comments about BYuT.

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