Springhill, NS Mine Disaster, Oct 1958


Springhill, N.S. (CP) -- Ninety-three men are feared to have died in the shattered depths of North America's deepest coal mine.
Late today, figures based on latest company information in the Springhill mine disaster showed 87 missing, 81 rescued and six bodies recovered.
With hope virtually abandoned for men trapped almost three miles inside the Cumberland No. 2 Colliery, rescue workers were engaged in the grim task of bringing out the bodies.
By mid-afternoon six bodie had been brought out and more were expected.
A sudden upheaval Thursday night shook loose tones of rock and released deadly gas, trapping 174 men deep in the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation colliery.
HAROLD GORDON, chief of colliery operations for DOSCO, brought up from the depths the grim news that there was no hope for most of those still below and only the faintest chance that others were alive.
He said the only reason hope was not abandoned for at least some of the men was that rescue workers had not yet been able to locate them.
Among the missing men were six officials of the mine understood to have been in the mine to study the causes of previous bumps -- or upheavals -- to which Springhill Colliery is susceptible.
Most of the survivors walked out after digging each other from fallen rock and debris.
Mines rescue crews tried to approach the 13,000 foot level from two directions. Men with respirators worked from one end, bare-faced miners from the other.
Between 60 and 70 men worked frantically to reach the entombed men through piles of fallen coal and stone. Gas set free by the bump endangered the rescue workers.
MR. GORDON, who oprepared to go back into the mine after the press conference, said the two lowest levels are completely shattered. The bump ripped up the floors and jammed machinery and conveyors against the roof.
Miners coming to the surface said gas was heavy in those areas. The gas, known as fire-damp, was said to be so bad even men with respirators could not penetrate it.
Some miners said these levels would probably have to be sealed off.
Bumps are fairly frequent in Springhill's bituminous mines. They occur when pressures build up in strata above and below working areas.
Through the night and into morning survivors trickled out of the mine portal and through lines of waiting, anxious relatives.
There were smiles of relief on the faces of those who recognized a loved one, grim determination on those who still had to wait.
For the 7,000 people of Springhill, Nova Scotia's hard-luck coal town 75 miles northwest of Halifax, it was the third agonizing ordeal in less than two years.
Just a week short of two years ago 39 died when more than 100 men were trapped by an explosion in nearby No. 4 mine. The day after Christmas last year fire destroyed a large part of the town's business district.
The latest disaster placed Springhill's whole economy in peril. No. 2 was the only mine still operating here. It employed about 900 men. No. 4 never reopened after the explosion.
The blow struck at 8:05 p.m. ADT. A shock like an earthquake shook the depths of the mine, the deepest in North America. The tremor was felt throughout the town and as far as 14 miles away.
Underground the shifting strata sent tons or fock and coal tumbling down from the roofs of mine passageways. Routes to safety were blocked. The mine ventilating system was damaged and dangerous coal gasses collected.
A barrier of fallen rock and deadly gas blocked the way out for 55 men working on the 13,000 foot level, at the end of a long slope more than 4,000 feet below the surface.
Elsewhere some men were able to scramble out. Others, including 16 injured, were helped or carried out by rescue crews.
No. 2 mine is operated by the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company, a subsidiary of Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation, in turn controlled by A. V. Roe Canada Limited.
Help flowed into Springhill from welfare agencies, the armed services and private individuals. Cars with headlights lit formed about a baseball field to mark the landing place for a navy helicopter carrying blood plasma.

The Lethbridge Herald Alberta 1958-10-24