Ceremony pays tribute to victims of Belgium's worst mining disaster

A memorial was held on Tuesday to mark 67 years since the Marcinelle coal mine tragedy that killed 262 men.

In memory of the worst mining disaster in Belgium’s history, 262 bells rang out at 8.00, one for each person who died. Among the victims were 136 Italians, and two fighter planes from the Italian air force flew over the ceremony in tribute.

Queen Paola attended the ceremony with Italian Foreign minister Antonio Tajani and several relatives of the victims. Paola’s father, Prince Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, was a member of the Italian air force.

The disaster unfolded on the morning of 8 August 1956 at the Marcinelle mine, close to Charleroi, caused by an attempt to operate an underground hoist mechanism before a coal wagon was correctly loaded. Cables were severed and an electrical fire broke out while 274 miners were working underground.

Despite rescue efforts, 262 of them died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. The site of the tragedy is now home to the Bois du Cazier museum, which commemorates the disaster and gives insight into the coal mining industry and community in Wallonia.



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