May 28

This Day in History

Disaster

May 28, 1965:

Mine explosion kills hundreds in India

Methane gas causes a mine explosion near Dharbad, India, that kills 375 people and injures hundreds more on this day in 1965. The blast was so powerful that even workers on the surface of the mine were killed.

The mine was located 225 miles northwest of Calcutta near the town of Dharbad and employed hundreds of miners. On this day, a spark ignited methane gas in the mine and caused a huge explosion. Coal dust was sent miles into the air and an entire section of the large mine completely collapsed. Two hundred and seventy-five miners never made it out alive. The explosion also killed approximately 100 workers who were above ground but near the mine and destroyed several homes in the area. A fire in the mine shaft raged for many days after the blast.

Methane gas is a common hazard in mining. It is lighter than air so it usually rises out of the mine shaft. However, significant pockets often get trapped underground and, when it combines with coal dust, the gas is extremely combustible. Typically, mines use gas detectors to make sure the levels of methane gas are not dangerous. They also add rock dust (finely ground limestone) to mix with the coal dust to make it non-explosive. However, the state of this technology in 1965 was far from foolproof and failed to prevent this disaster.

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