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Lightning strikes at Alabama coal mine; 6 workers injured

ADGER (AP) — Lightning struck surface equipment at Alabama's largest underground coal mine Wednesday, injuring six people and forcing the company to evacuate workers.

Drummond Co. said lightning hit a drilling rig that was boring a shaft at its Shoal Creek Mine in Jefferson County, sending a charge down the steel equipment and igniting methane gas that was around the hole.

One worker who sustained burns had to be evacuated from the rural mine by helicopter, and four others were taken to hospitals by ambulances. Three were listed in critical condition at UAB Hospital, and the fourth was in serious condition, hospital spokesman Bob Shepherd said.

Another worker suffered bruises and a rolled ankle, said Daryl Dewberry, a United Mine Workers of America vice president based in Hueytown.

The condition of the other injured worker was not known.

The Shoal Creek Mine has had repeated safety problems in recent months.

The mine was briefly shut down last week after damage to a ventilation wall, and it was closed for six months last year after methane gas ignited.

Drummond planned to close the mine, which employs about 550 people, but it decided to keep it open after reclamation efforts worked better than expected.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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