CENTRALIA, Ill. -- A heavy explosion trapped more than 100 miners 500 feel underground in the No. 5 mine of the Centralia Coal Company today and a state mine department official said the men's chances to escape "looks bad."
The explosion occurred. at 3:30 p.m. and caught about 135 workers in the mine. A company spokesman said 30 men got out of the mine after the explosion.
The company figures indicated 105 men still were in the mine. However, Mine Foreman Peter Ferarri said between 100 and 125 men were trapped.
The men who escaped brought up four injured men, one of whom died.
Rescue operations got underway as word spread throughout the city of the tragedy. Weeping wives, children and mothers crowded around the mine property.
Many of them sobbed the fear that most of the men might be dead. However, company officials and rescuers reported that they had contacted at least one small group of men by tapping and had received replies.
Clouds of dust poured out of the mine shaft five hours after the explosion and were getting more dense.
Robert Wier, of the state mine department, was with the firs rescue crew to go down into the mine.-The .squad got into the one-level mine only about 1,000 feet before dust and gat forced them back.
The rescuers said the blast apparently had been caused by gas.
One of the men who escaped was Fred Bight, he came to the surface carrying Mark Watson, 73. Watson died after he reached the surface.
Bight appeared at the surface with his burden about an hour after the explosion. Ha said the explosion occurred deep in the "North 14" passageway of the mine. He found Watson twro miles from the mouth of the shaft.