by Chuckie Corra, Fri Apr 09, 2010 at 11:02:24 PM EDT
Last Monday was one of the saddest and most disturbing days in West Virginia history. The Upper Big Branch Mine explosion has thus far taken the lives of 25 brave and hard-working people, while 4 still remain missing. I recently have picked up the use of my Twitter account that I got last year but have yet to habitually use. The past week I have followed Ken Ward, a veteran Charleston Gazette journalist who has been covering the situation basically 24/7 since it happened.
Four eight-man teams are at a staging area within the mine, he said. Two teams will advance to check on the final refuge chamber, the only hope for survival for the four miners who are still unaccounted for.
Visibility inside the mine is limited to about 100 feet, because after Monday’s massive explosion, there is probably dust in the air and the walls are charred black, making it harder to see. The refuge chamber is located in a cross cut, meaning that rescue teams would need to be almost on top of it before they can tell whether it has been deployed, an obvious indication that there are miners inside.
If there is no one inside the chamber, the mission immediately shifts to recovering the bodies of dead miners and taking them out of the mine.
The only hope of finding survivors will be in the final "rescue chamber" that has yet to be checked. The chambers are designed to be a safe haven after a situation like this occurs, where there is enough oxygen for a group of miners to survive for roughly 4 days. They have checked all but one chamber. We are still praying that there will be a miracle.
The hopes are growing dimmer and Governor Joe Manchin has begun to accept this realization.
Gov. Manchin: “Our journey is about to end”
This story is sad, and as a West Virginian I can vouch that the whole state feels a significant sadness in our hearts. The pain the families of the fallen miners must be unimaginable.
But the question remains is, where will we go from here? How can a disaster such as this be prevented? What will the families of the miners, and the miners who were not on duty do for work now? (because it has to be assumed that the Upper Big Branch Mine will be shut down indefinitely)
President Obama has called for a full investigation and is requesting a detailed report be on his desk by next week, but will he pursue the issue? We can only hope.
In my eyes, there has never been a bigger case of corporate wrongdoing for this state. Negligence of safety procedures and ignoring violations, which CEO Blankenship deemed "nonsensical," have proven deadly. For a small town with limited resources like Montcoal, WV... where will they go from this? The mine was literally the only place of employment for the vast majority of the residents. The coal mine was their life. A lot of them didn't like working there, especially under the watchful eyes of Massey and Blankenship, but they were forced to because it was the only job available to them. The mine was non-unionized, and the workers hardly had any rights whatsoever. They could not refuse to work in such bad safety conditions, or they would risk being fired and jobless. During this economy, and in such a poor part of one of the poorest states in the country, loosing a job was absolutely not an option.
The people of this community face the worst part of this situation. The hard working community has to face the heartbreak of losing so many wonderful people to such a horrific disaster, and now have to worry what they will do after this situation clears. The mine is finished indefinitely. Where will they go, what will they do for work?
The likelihood of criminal charges being brought against the corner-office holders at Massey seems increasingly more likely as the story unfolds of this terrible disaster, and they should. The way the mine was run was irresponsible, wrong, and unfair to the miners working there and the families who relied on the mine to make a living.
To me the whole situation does a grave injustice to the hard-working families that inhabit the community, and the people who were unfairly affected by the disaster.
Something must be done, justice must be served to the people responsible for the negligence of Massey operations.