Rescue Effort for Bulgarian Miners Downgraded to Search
The manager of the Oranovo coal mine near the town of Simitli in Bulgaria, Valeri Manov, has said Friday that after so many days the rescue effort for two trapped miners has turned into a search one.
He stressed the rescue teams and the mine's management now simply wanted to find the two and find an answer to the question what has happened inside the mine. Manov, however, continues to insist there were no "compromises" with safety.
Rescue teams in southwestern Bulgaria are searching for the 11th day in a row for the miners.
Miners Ivan Lazarov, 35, and Nikolay Mihaylov, 42, remain trapped 450 meters below the surface underneath an avalanche of mud, rocks and water.
Blagoevgrad Regional Governor, Musa Palev, says the situation is the most difficult for their close ones, adding the municipality was ready to offer any kind of assistance, including meetings with psychology therapists.
Both are from the nearby village of Krupnik. Nikolay only has one sister, while Ivan has a mother and a brother who works as a firefighter.
Manov further informs that the rescue teams include 20 people, working in three shifts, and that have dug eight meters of the detour gallery in the last 48 hours. He confirmed the teams are advancing normally, without any obstacles.
The collapse in the mine happened in the morning of July 16. Two other miners, Asen Stoynev, 41, and Hristo Mladenov, 45, died in it.
The excavation of the detour gallery started Wednesday, after the crisis headquarters, and the expert group formed under the order of Economy and Energy Minister, Dragomir Stoynev, decided to use a bypass route.
This was imposed by emerging serious risks for the rescue teams over mudslides and water leaks in the collapsed gallery.
The detour gallery is going to be 33-meter long.
All works in the mine are on hold now, and all effort is focused on finding the two people trapped inside.
Locals are flocking to churches to light candles and pray for the lives of Mladenov and Lazarov.
Stoynev visited the site once again Wednesday morning. He has vowed on several occasions to bring to justice those guilty for the deadly accident.
The Minister noted Wednesday that the government will reexamine not only the Oranovo concession, but all others.
This is the fourth major accident in the Oranovo mine in the past eight years. Union leaders said the reason for the collapse was poor safety standards.
Miners and their families are keeping silent about the work conditions, which many see as fear of losing their jobs.
The Mayor of Simitli, Apostol Apostolov, announced Sunday that miners in the Oranovo coal mine make the lowest wages in the entire municipality.
According to him, the majority earn the meager BGN 300-400 a month.
The mine's concessionaire, Krasimir Mihaylov, was interrogated last Friday in the 2nd Police Precinct in Blagoevgrad where he turned himself in hours after the Prosecutor's Office issued a search warrant for him.
Meanwhile, several Bulgarian media published pictures of Mihaylov's son Krassen leading a lavish life in London and Saint Tropez. The pictures have been leaked anonymously and their authenticity is not yet confirmed.
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