Century, WV Century Coal Mine Explosion, Mar 1906
TEN MINERS DEAD; MANY BADLY HURT.
FRIGHTFUL EXPLOSION NEAR FAIRMONT, W. VA.
DEATH LIST MAY BE LARGER.
MINE OWNERS WORKING DESPERATELY TO FORCE GAS OUT OF SHAFT AND RESCUE INJURED -- CAUSE UNKNOWN.
Fairmont, W. Va., March 22. -- Ten men are known to be dead, twenty-five injured and from twenty-five to seventy-five missing and believed to be dead, are the results of an explosion of gas in the shaft of the Century Coal company at Century, a small mining town situated fifty miles south of Fairmont on the Bellington and Buckhannon branch of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.
The explosion took place at 4:30 this afternoon, but owing to the telephone wires being put out of commission by the high winds of today details are lacking and the names of the victims, six of whom are known to be foreigners were not secured at a late hour tonight.
The Century mine, which is owned by Shaw Brothers, well known coal men of Baltimore, Md., is one of the largest in northern West Virginia. Over 250 men are employed daily in the shaft and had the explosion been an hour earlier the loss of life would have been appalling. As it was, there were but a few stragglers remaining in the shaft, the main body of miners having quit work for the day.
The giant fan, which furnishes air for the shaft, was partially wrecked by the force of the explosion but was repaired immediately and within one hour after the accident Superintendent James Ward had a relief gang in the mine. The first trip out brought ten men, five dead and five badly burned. They were found in the main heading near the bottom of the shaft. The living could give no details of the explosion, saying that they were on their way to the surface when the explosion took place behind them.
A second expedition immediately went down and explored the mine heading, which was found to be uninjured by the explosion except that the brattices were blown out.
Four more bodies were found in this heading and twenty injured men were making their way towards the bottom of the shaft and were brought to the surface by the rescuers. Fourteen subheadings at midnight were yet unexplored and Superintendent Ward, who was still in the mine, sent word out that owing to the prevalence of gas he was yet undecided at that time whether or not to push work into the subheadings for an hour or so. The mine, however, was being readily freed from the fumes of the explosion by the fan and the work of rescue will be pushed on through the night.
Immediately following the explosion the officials began a house to house canvass to ascertain the number of men to be found on the surface. This resulted in sixty miners being counted who had come out previous to the explosion. It is believed that there are many more outside who have not yet been accounted for. If this is not true, there are still seventy-five men in the mine with one chance in a hundred of their being alive.
Relief trains bearing physicians were hurried from Phillippi and Buckhannon and the doctors immediately took care of the wounded in the office building, which was transformed into a temporary hospital.
The families of the dead, wounded and missing men gathered quickly at the opening and the pathetic scenes always witnessed at such accidents was seen. Several foreign women insisted upon entering the mine and were only prevented from entering the cage by force. Many of the women were still hovering about the opening at midnight, refusing to go into the company store or other places to escape the biting cold of the night.
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