Death toll from underground explosion at a Georgian coal mine last week rose to four, after a 43-year-old injured miner has succumbed to burns in hospital.
Three miners were killed immediately and seven other badly injured as a result of explosion in the mine located in Tkibuli of Imereti region in western Georgia on August 27. Six injured miners now remain in hospital in Tbilisi.
Explosion 850 meters below ground in the same coal mine killed four miners and injured one on March 3, 2010.
One miner was killed and three others injured when a protective barrier reportedly collapsed in the same mine on December 4, 2009.
Mine in Tkibuli is operated by Saknakhshiri, a daughter company of Georgian Industrial Group, a conglomerate founded by lawmaker from the ruling party, Davit Bezhuashvili - a brother of Gela Bezhuashvili, chief of the Georgian intelligence service.
Investigation is ongoing into the reasons of the August 27 explosion.
Official investigation into the March, 2010 explosion blamed violation of safety rules by miners themselves resulting into explosion of methane gas.
Georgian Trade Unions Confederation, however, cast doubt on official investigation results saying that safety norms are not observed by the operator company and the reason of explosion apparently was due to faulty ventilation systems, which failed to vent hazardous gases. The allegation was denied by the operator company.
When President Saakashvili visited Tkibuli next morning after the August 27 explosion, he told the miners that ventilation systems were installed in the mine, but the problem was with absence of “discipline”.
“Vano [Merabishvili, the interior minister, who was also in Tkibuli] found out that instructions on safety rules are not given to miners prior to entry into the mine,” Saakashvili said. “Each miner should be asked before going into the mine: ‘what are the safety rules?’ and [miners] should repeat these rules like a mantra.”
Georgian Trade Unions Confederation plans a rally outside the Parliament on September 2 to honor memory of died miners and also to protest against, what they call, absence of safety standards in coal mines.