SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Five Bosnian miners are believed dead after a gas explosion collapsed part of a coal mine in Zenica, in central Bosnia, on Friday following an earthquake.
A miners’ union representative, who said 29 miners were rescued from the blast site, confirmed to Al Jazeera that five of the trapped workers had lost their lives. The men were all found in the same tunnel inside the mine, and it’s believed they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
On Thursday, a 3.5 magnitude earthquake hit Zenica, 33 miles northwest of the capital Sarajevo, triggering a blast that caved in two tunnels inside the Raspotocje pit.
The 29 miners, whom rescuers brought to the surface just after midday Friday, had spent the night half a mile below ground.
Twenty miners suffered minor injuries, while six others experienced more serious injuries, a Zenica Cantonal Hospital spokeswoman said. Eight miners remained hospitalized on Friday but were expected to be discharged the next day.
Thursday’s blast was the third at the Raspotocje pit this year.
Muris Tutnjic, a miner with 30 years of experience, suffered head, back and stomach injuries in the explosion.
''Suddenly, without any warning ... I was covered in coal. I simply disappeared,'' he said.
The dust was so thick Tutnjic could not see another person for several hundred yards around him.
Tutnjic said that after he regained consciousness he crawled to two different stations to phone for help, but both phones had been destroyed in the blast.
At the second station, he connected two wires behind the phone box and managed to make a call.
''The head of shift answered. I said I was injured and other people, further down from me, were in danger,” Tutnjic said. “As I finished my sentence, they were already down there. They grabbed me and took me out. I can't remember anything after that.''
Nihrad Rizvanovic, one of the rescued miners, who suffered neck injuries, was visibly shaken. "My neighbors, my colleagues are down there. How can I go home now?" Rizvanovic asked.
-Boris Gagic, Fahrudin Smailovic and Ivana Momcilovic-Odobasic contributed to this report.