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MONTCOAL, W.Va. – A huge underground explosion blamed on methane gas killed 25 coal miners in the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1984, and rescuers on Tuesday began a dangerous and possibly futile attempt to rescue four others still missing.
Crews were bulldozing an access road so they could drill 1,000 feet into the earth to try to find the missing miners feared dead after the Monday afternoon blast at a mine with a history of violations for not properly ventilating highly combustible methane.
Rescuers were being held back by poison gases that accumulated near the blast site, about 1.5 miles from the entrance to Massey Energy Co.'s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine.
The death toll is the highest in a U.S. mine since 1984, when 27 died in a fire at Emery Mining Corp.'s mine in Orangeville, Utah. If the four missing bring the total to 29, it would be the most killed in a U.S. mine since a 1970 explosion killed 38 at Finley Coal Co., in Hyden, Ky.