Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, a senior member on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, issued a statement regarding the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Whitesville, West Virginia.
At least 25 miners have been reported killed in the blast and four others still remain missing.
“The mining tragedy in West Virginia is a devastating reminder of the strength and courage that our nation’s mineworkers demonstrate on a daily basis,” said McKeon. “My thoughts and prayers are with all of the families and men and women who work at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. I will work closely with my colleagues from West Virginia and around the country in offering up any support needed to ensure that all remaining workers are recovered from the mine.”
The explosion happened around 3 p.m. eastern standard time and the cause is still under investigation.
Crews are working to drill boreholes into the mine to vent toxic gasses and make conditions safe enough to continue searching for survivors.
“Like West Virginia, California’s 25th Congressional District is an area of the country that takes a tremendous amount of pride in its mineworkers and their families. I will continue my work on the Education and Labor Committee in ensuring that the safety of our nation’s miners remains a top priority in Washington and when the time is right, we will join with local, state, and federal officials to investigate what caused this horrific event. In the meantime, we must stand by this community during this difficult time.”
According to CNN the mine underwent a regular safety and health inspection earlier this year. The inspection found 103 violations, including the ventilation issues, and proposed $147,000 in penalties.
In addition, spot inspections conducted from January through March found eight other proposed violations.