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Posted September 16, 2011 EST

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British Rescue Workers Find 1 Miner Dead
British Rescue Workers Find 1 Miner Dead

LONDON - British rescue workers found one miner dead after searching a flooded coal mine in south Wales, but pressed on Friday with the search for three others trapped underground. Rescue workers scouring the Gleision Colliery near Swansea said they had not been able to contact the men. Fire department official Chris Margetts said the dead miner was found on the "exit side of the body of water" and that it was "quite possible the team has been split."

Authorities have not been able to recover the body, and the identity of the miner is not yet known.

"So the remaining miners, we still believe, are located the other side of the blockage in the lower shaft and we're still trying to gain access to that shaft," Margetts said. "It's a very delicate, sensitive operation."

The trapped miners have been named as Phillip Hill, 45, from Neath, Charles Bresnan, 62, David Powell, 50, and Garry Jenkins, 39, all from the Swansea Valley.

Authorities have said three other miners managed to get out of the mine after the accident Thursday morning.

One was in the hospital listed as critically ill, while the two others escaped largely unharmed and were aiding in the rescue operation.

Local lawmaker Peter Hain said he has spoken to the miners' families, describing their ordeal as "a small hell" made worse by the fact they don't know the identity of the deceased.

"You can just imagine what they are going through," he said. "It is almost worse than not knowing - knowing a bit but not knowing exactly and our hearts go out to everybody."

He extended his sympathies to the miners' families - sentiments echoed by Arbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who said he is praying for all involved and that there will be "better news" today.

Prime Minister David Cameron said "every support will be given to the emergency services," adding that later "in due course we must ensure we fully understand and learn from the causes of this accident."

Cameron is being updated regularly on the situation and been in touch with local police and Hain, according to a spokeswoman for the prime minister.

The mine burrowed into a steep and isolated hillside, is one of the few remainders of Britain's once-mighty mining industry.

South Wales was long synonymous with coal mining, as immortalized by Richard Llewellyn's novel "How Green Was My Valley," whose film version won the 1941 U.S. Academy Award as best picture. Cardiff, Wales' main port city, once led the world in coal exports.

However, Britain's Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher shut down the mines following a yearlong showdown in 1984 with the miners' union. In the year of the strike, there were 196,000 miners working in Britain; now there are about 6,000.

The worst mining accident in British history was in 1913, when 439 miners were killed in a gas explosion at the Senghenydd colliery in South Wales. In a 1966 disaster that shocked the world, an avalanche of coal sludge buried a school in the village of Aberfan, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Seven people have been killed in mining accidents in Britain since 2006, according to Health and Safety Executive statistics.

Written and photos by Associated Press

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix