January 20, 2006

Rescuers search for two W.Virginia miners

By Juliet Terry

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (Reuters) - Rescue teams searched
on Friday for two miners missing after a fire broke out at a
coal mine in West Virginia, where an accident at another mine
three weeks ago killed 12 people.

Nineteen miners escaped the fire that started on a conveyor
belt at the Aracoma Mine in Melville late Thursday afternoon,
state officials said.

Doug Conaway, director of the West Virginia Office of
Miners' Health, Safety and Training, said the fire alarm was
raised around 5:45 p.m. The two missing men were part of a crew
of 12 who stopped their vehicle to put on breathing equipment
before heading out of the mine. Ten miners from that group and
another group of nine escaped.

"For some reason the other two fell behind," Conaway told a
news conference. He said the fire, which started on a
conveyor-belt line which carries material out, was still
burning as rescue teams worked.

The Aracoma Mine in Melville is owned by Aracoma Coal Co.,
a subsidiary of Richmond, Virginia-based Massey Energy Co.,
according to a U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data
base. Massey's Web site says it is the fourth-largest U.S. coal
company by revenue.

The accident came just weeks after 12 miners died in the
Sago mine in central West Virginia. The only survivor,
26-year-old Randal McCloy, has been hospitalized since, having
survived nearly 42 hours underground following a blast.

That tragedy was made more poignant by an initial report
that 12 miners had survived, only for the families' joy to be
dashed three hours later when the truth emerged.

Gov. Joe Manchin said everything possible was being done to
find the two men, though the memory of Sago was still fresh.
"Everybody has been affected and there is a toll on everyone
but these are professionals. They will do their job," he said.

"The families are still together and still very hopeful,"
he added. "They're sticking together."

The two men were thought to be trapped around 10,000 feet

into the mine, about 900 feet below the surface.

Seven rescue teams worked in shifts overnight searching for
the two miners, said Roger Bryant, head of the Logan County
Office of Emergency Services in the mountainous eastern state.

"The rescue effort and the cooperation has just been
tremendous," he said in an interview on CNN.