Tragedy has struck a West Virginia coal mine as 25 people were killed following an explosion at Massey Energy Company's Big Branch mine
Four others were missing Tuesday, their chances of survival dimming as rescuers were held back by poison gases that accumulated near the blast site, about 1.5 miles into the complex.
Rescuers prepared to drill three shafts going down over 1,000 feet each to release methane and carbon monoxide that chased them from the mine after the blast Monday afternoon, Gov. Joe Manchin said.
"All we have left is hope, and we're going to continue to do what we can," Kevin Stricklin, an administrator for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, said at a news conference. "But I'm just trying to be honest with everybody and say that the situation does look dire."
Manchin said investigators still don't know what ignited the blast, but that methane likely played a part in the explosion. Although spring explosions are rare, winter months are usually when the risk is highest because the air then is heavier and methane is harder to vent out of the mine.