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Miners evacuated amid pit blaze
More than 90 miners at a closure-threatened colliery were safely evacuated after a severe underground fire.
The operators of Daw Mill Colliery in north Warwickshire said the blaze was on a scale not seen for decades and had put the future of the pit "seriously in doubt".
UK Coal Mine Holdings confirmed that 92 underground workers were evacuated from the mine after the fire broke out at about 3.30pm on Friday.
In a statement, the company said: "The fire began at a depth of 540m (1,772ft) and a distance of 8km (5 miles) from the bottom of the main shaft. As a precaution, UK Coal safely evacuated 92 underground workers from the mine in accordance with standard emergency procedures. A specialised team of 14 underground workers, trained in firefighting, remained at the scene to extinguish the fire.
"However, at approximately 7.30pm on Friday evening, due to the increasing severity of the situation, it became clear to mine management that all remaining miners should be evacuated from the mine."
In its statement, UK Coal Holdings said there was no risk or impact from the incident to residents living close to the site or above the mine.
A core team will now remain at the pit to bring the situation under control, but it is not expected that the mine could be restored to operational status in anything less than three to six months.
Daw Mill has been at risk of closure since March 2012 when it was announced that a restructuring was needed to safeguard its medium-term future. A restructuring of UK Coal in 2012 achieved "medium-term security" for the mine, providing it was able to produce coal safely, reliably and efficiently.
But the statement issued on Monday said last week's fire had put Daw Mill's security "seriously in doubt" and would lead to talks on the implications for its remaining workforce.
Commenting on the incident, Kevin McCullough, chief executive of UK Coal, said: "This fire is on a scale not seen for decades. I want to thank everyone in the mine that day for their professionalism and commitment. From the mine workers that fought the fire initially to the mine management team that evacuated all workers safely, everyone played their part. The suddenness of the fire and its ferocity is something we train for and hope never to see, so the safe evacuation of over 100 miners is something the whole team can be proud of."