§ Mr. WELLOCK (by Private Notice)
asked the Secretary for Mines whether he can make any statement in regard to the loss of eight miners' lives in the Coombs Wood pit, Halesowen.
§ Commodore KING
I received a preliminary report of this accident by telephone about 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon. I am informed that a fire occurred about 400 yards from the shaft on an intake road leading into a small district. The fire, which started about 7.30 a.m. yesterday, began at a brattice cloth and 1584 spread to the adjacent timber and the coal on each side; the origin of the fire is not at present known. Nine men were at work on the inbye side of the fire and only one of them succeeded in escaping. Immediate steps were taken towards extinguishing the fire in order to reach the men, but two rescue brigades who had been called from the Dudley Station were beaten back by the smoke. Later a fall of roof occurred which partially extinguished the fire, and eventually a road was made over the fall and the fire was finally extinguished with water about 3 p.m. The rescue brigades were then able to enter the district and found the eight men dead. Some of the bodies were in the intake and some in the return airway, and all had been dead for some hours when found. News of the accident reached the office of the Divisional Inspector of Mines about 10.30 a.m. yesterday, and he proceeded immediately to the colliery in company with another inspector and remained there until the fire had been subdued and the bodies recovered. On receipt of his preliminary report I instructed the Deputy Chief Inspector of Mines to proceed to the spot, and he is now at the colliery with the Divisional Inspector, and full investigation is being made into the causes and circumstances of the disaster. I should like to express sincere sympathy with the bereaved relatives.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned the intake and the return airway. That would mean one way in and another way out. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean that there was a way out, and, if so, what prevented the men getting round to it?
§ Commodore KING
I cannot give details. I think hon. Members will understand that until I have a report from the inspectors on the spot, when I shall in all probability receive a plan of the actual scene of the accident, I really cannot be expected to give the details asked for.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I want to know whether the men had to pass through the brattice cloth, and what time elapsed before the 1585 fire was discovered. The reports we get from the inspectors often leave out most important points. We want to find out what time elapsed before the fire was discovered, and whether the mine was inspected before the men went down the pit?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member had better wait until the Secretary for Mines has received a report.