December 27

This Day in History

Disaster

Dec 27, 1975:

Coal mine explodes in India

A coal mine explosion followed by a flood kills at least 372 workers in Dhanbad, India, on this day in 1975.

Hundreds of miners were working at the Chasnala Colliery on the evening of December 27 when an explosion suddenly shook the large mine. In virtually all coal mine disasters, the precise cause of the explosion is never determined, but the nature of mines leaves only a few probable causes. Often pockets of highly flammable gas develop, including methane, which can be released suddenly during mining. When a surge of gas from an unknown pocket fills the mine, even a small spark from the mining equipment can trigger an explosion. Today, owners attempt to ventilate the mines to prevent this occurrence. Also, extremely fine dust from the coal can circulate and suddenly combust within a mine or explosives used in the mining process can be mishandled, leading to disaster.

Whatever the exact cause of the Dhanbad mine explosion, the disaster was compounded when the ground shook so violently that millions of gallons of water from a nearby reservoir flooded into the pits. Miners who survived the initial blast were trapped under a mountain of debris and drowned when the water surged into the mine. Rescue workers attempted to dig out survivors until January 19, but no one was saved. In fact, only a small portion of the bodies were ever recovered.

The local workers union claimed that there were nearly 700 workers killed in the mine, but the company maintained that there were only 372. Because so many bodies were not recovered and the state of record-keeping at the mine was so shoddy, the truth will never be known.

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