Forgotten tragedy at Dukla mine
The deaths of the thirty-four miners who perished in the Dukla mine exactly 50 years ago, on 9 June 1970, were caused by a flood of the kind we are unfortunately familiar with today. At that time, a sudden cloudburst occurred, the Stavěšický brook in Šardice was swollen and the water broke through the bedrock disturbed by mining. The shaft flooded with water.
The small village of Šardice in the Kyjov region lies in close proximity to the Dukla lignite mine. A quiet small stream flows through the village. It even dries up several times a year. However, 50 years ago something quite unexpected happened. The Stavěšický brook turned into a raging river. A sudden huge cloudburst increased the normal flow of water in the riverbed many times over. It was more than „century-old“ water. No one remembered anything like it.
A torrential wave swept through the entire creek bed. There were 110 miners working the afternoon shift at the mine. The mine’s control room got a call from the shaft that water was pouring in. It was about 6:30 in the evening. Communications were down. Dispatch immediately called all the workers to the surface. But only 76 miners came out. Thirty-four remained underground.
The mine has a very extensive system of shafts, some of which take up to four hours to get out. Rescuers hoped that miners at the mine had managed to shelter from the water in one of the upper shafts and were breathing air from air bubbles. Rescuers drilled shafts at those locations and tried to contact the trapped people. However, no one has responded from the depths.
No one else got out. Only one miner from the far reaches of the system was among those rescued. It’s a mystery how he got out. Jindřich Cvek and Svatopluk Sotolář were the main contributors to the fact that the disaster did not cost the lives of all the miners. It was they who first noticed the mass of water pouring into the shaft. They didn’t run away, but called the control room first. They saved the lives of the others, but they couldn’t get out themselves.
The tragedy has affected many local families. One of the wives of the miner who stayed underground waited for him for three days, leaning on the bicycle he rode to work every day. She refused to believe that her husband was dead. There were countless horrific sights of suffering relatives. The dead were still being brought out of the mine in October. It was clear that they were all covered in water and mud. No one had the slightest chance of getting into the air bubbles, as the rescuers had hoped. It took three years before the mine was reopened. The disaster at the Dukla mine was the biggest mining accident in the South Moravian region.