Three miners have died in a potash shaft in the town of Unterbreizbach in the southern part of the German state of Thuringia. An accident had left several miners trapped in the shaft during a carbon dioxide leak.
At about 1 p.m., a blasting operation in a potash shaft led to a carbon dioxide leak that overtook miners working for the company K+S Kali GmbH.
Seven of the men were trapped more than 700 meters (2,300 feet) underground. Three of them, aged 24, 50 and 56, died as a result of the leak - most likely through suffocation. The miners had been on an inspection round through the tunnel.
A spokesman for the company said that two of the surviving four were receiving medical attention. The spokesman called the blasting operation standard for the company and said it was "absolutely uncommon" that the carbon dioxide could leak in such a large quantity.
Immediately after the incident, the mines at Unterbreizbach and the surrounding area were evacuated.
The mining firm employs 4,370 people, about 1,000 of them at the site in Thuringia.
mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)