Thirteen miners died and another 10 suffered injuries after a methane explosion at the ČSM hard coal mine in the north-east of the Czech Republic on Thursday. Eleven of the dead were Polish nationals.
The explosion occurred about 800 metres below the ground at around 5 p.m. on Thursday. The blast devastated some of the underground areas with poor visibility, obstructing the efforts of the rescue units.
According to Ivo Čelechovský of the state-owned OKD company, which operates the mine, three of the injured miners remain in hospital, one of them in a critical condition.
A special commission has been set up to investigate the cause of the accident at the ČSM mine. According to the Czech Mining Authority it is clear even now that the concentration of methane must have crossed permitted norms more than 4.5 times.
The incident is the worst mining accident in the Czech Republic since 1990, when 30 miners died in a fire at a mine near Karvina.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited the scene of the accident early on Friday, as did Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Poland has declared Sunday a day of mourning for the victims of the tragedy.
Condolences and messages of support for the injured and the families of the victims are pouring in from politicians and members of the public.
President Zeman and Prime Minister Babiš said they were deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy, adding that their thoughts were with the families who had lost loved ones and the miners recovering in hospital.
Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said the matter must be thoroughly investigated in order to ascertain whether the tragedy was not caused by negligence.
Condolences have also come from EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
The mayor of the near-by town of Stonavy has appealed to the locals to tone down Christmas and New Year celebrations, saying this was a time for reflection. Ostrava will dim the lights on dominant buildings in recognition of the tragedy and black flags were hoisted on many buildings in memory of those killed.
A special account has been set up to help the families of the victims.
The National Cyber and Information Security Agency (NCISA) which on Monday released a warning that the use of devices developed by the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE could present a security threat has moved to reassure ordinary citizens that the warning does not apply to them.
The agency which issued the warning on the ground of its own findings and based on information about Chinese espionage activities from the military counterintelligence service said it was aimed at organisations and persons who fall under the state’s cyber security law.
The Office of the Government and individual ministries have been getting rid of the respective equipment since the alert came.
A Slovak national arrested in Prague last year on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack has been charged with terrorist activities and propagating Islamic State.
The man was arrested after the police raided his Prague flat and discovered chemicals and other materials needed for production of home-made explosives.
The case will be dealt with by the Prague Municipal Court. If convicted, the man could face up to 15 years in jail.
Over 200,000 people visited the historic building of the National Museum since its re-opening in October, the museum wrote on its website on Friday.
The building was closed down in 2011 to undergo a major renovation, which cost around 1.8 billion crowns. It was partially reopened on October 28 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia. The National Museum will be free of charge until the end of the year. All of the museum’s premises will be accessible as of March next year.
Saturday should bring overcast skies and rain around the country with day temperatures between 7 and 11 degrees Celsius.