Watch above: PotashCorp miner Stefan Trischuk describes the scene in the mine after a fire broke out and how he and other miners handled being stuck underground
ALLAN, Sask. – All 96 miners have been brought to the surface after more than 24 hours underground.
The miners were trapped underground Wednesday, after a fire at the Allan potash mine southeast of Saskatoon.
By noon Thursday, about half of them were still stuck underground.
PotashCorp officials say the fire started in a truck at the Allan mine around 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Crews were unable to get the fire out and smoke spread throughout the mine.
PotashCorp spokesperson Bill Johnson said smoke is a major hazard underground so the 96 miners were sent to one of the mine’s underground shelters.
Johnson said they started bringing miners to the surface about 11 p.m. last night but he said there have been problems with some of the fans in the mine, so air quality was an issue.
Because of that some of the miners remained in refuge stations where the air quality is better.
For those who did get out, it was a long night.
Stefan Trischuk was one of the 96 miners underground when the fire began. He was brought to the surface around 3 a.m. today.
He said for the most part everyone was calm, but when they first realized there was a fire, it was a shock.
“It was a big rush to get to the refuge station before the smoke got to us,” he told Global News.
“We weren’t sure what was going on, so it was a big rush to get there, and seal ourselves in, and after that it was just a waiting game – I spent 11 hours in the refuge station last night.”
Trischuk said the underground shelters are stocked with water and food, and phones to communicate with people on the surface, so no one was panicking.
He said they passed the time by playing cards, reading, and talking.
“I came to surface at 3 a.m. and I was supposed to be off work at 7 p.m.,” he said.
He said the refuge station was about the size of a large living room, and there were nine other people who took shelter with him.
He added frequent fire drills meant everyone knew what to do.
Trischuk said the miners were kept informed of what was happening, including when a rescue team came down to put out the fire, and when it was extinguished.
“They were phoning us every two hours to let us know how things were going,” he said.