Hopes were fading on Thursday (June 8) for the missing 400-plus miners trapped in an underground colliery in Wankie, Rhodesia.
Hopes were fading on Thursday (June 8) for the missing 400-plus miners trapped in an underground colliery in Wankie, Rhodesia. Rescue teams aided by south African experts mounted a massive operation immediately following the disaster on Tuesday (June 6) when a dynamite store exploded underground, but only eight men were rescued and only seven bodies had been recovered by Thursday morning.
So it looked as if the Wankie disaster was going to become one of the world's most serious mine tragedies. Only three others in recent decades have produced more fatalities--the biggest, in Chine's Manchuria province in 1942, killed aver 1,500 miners. It was caused by a coal dust explosion. In Coalbrook in south Africa in 1960, 437 miners died after a subsidence in the colliery there, and in 1963 an explosion in a colliery in Omuta, Japan, claimed 451 lives.
As the desperate search for survivors continues at Wankie, with hopes fading rapidly and rescue officials proclaiming very little chance of any major survival, this production takes a look at the filmed history of major mine disasters.
SYNOPSIS: The Rhodesia mine disaster, where over four-hundred men are feared dead at Wankie colliery, looks as if is going to become one of the world's worst mining tragedies. It joins the ranks of major accidents like this one, a colliery coal-dust explosion in Omutu, Japan, nine years ago. There, four-hundred-and-fifty-one miners died, and nearly five hundred more were injured. Later, the coal-miners' union said inadequate safety precautions led to the fatal explosion.
The year before, two-hundred-and-eighty-nine miners were buried in a mass funeral in Saarbruecken, West Germany, after an explosion in a local colliery. The blast, at eighteen-hundred-feet, was caused by a methane gas ignition--one of the traditional underground dangers inherent in coal-mining. It was feared that Tuesday's Wankie explosion had also been caused by methane ignition, but later it was discovered that dynamite had been accidentally detonated.
Another four-hundred-and-thirty-five miners died in South Africa in 1960, after being entombed in a rock fall at six hundred-feet in the Orange Free States Coalbrook colliery. Lake Wankie, the majority of dead were Africans. High-speed diamond drills were brought in, but rescue attempts had to be abandoned after more rook falls, flooding, and methane gas leaks.
More recently, nearly sixty miners perished in May this year in a silver mine in Kellogg, Ohio, in the United States. This time, it was a fire disaster. Flames swept through tunnels a mile underground. Rescuers attempting to lower man-size metal escape tubes into the area were later driven back by fresh outbreaks of fire. And in common with Wankie and other tragedies, grim-faced and anxious relatives kept lasting vigils beside the mine, as rescue hopes grew slimmer and slimmer......