Ukraine held a day of mourning on Sunday for 37 miners killed in two accidents in coal pits in the country’s eastern industrial district as the last bodies were pulled from the rubble.
The emergency ministry said Sunday that 26 bodies had been recovered after a blast deep in the Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnaya coal mine in the eastern Lugansk region.
Rescuers also retrieved the last of 11 bodies at the Bazhanova pit in the town of Makiyivka in the neighbouring Donetsk region where a concrete mine headframe collapsed.
The twin disasters were the country’s worst mining accidents since 2007 when more than 100 miners were killed in an explosion.
"The search and rescue operation has been concluded," the ministry said Sunday, with all those previously listed as missing confirmed dead.
The first mass funerals were due on Sunday afternoon, with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov set to attend services for victims of both accidents.
Fifteen miners from the Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnaya mine were to be buried, a spokeswoman for the Lugansk region administration, Albina Kosheleva, told AFP.
The youngest victim was just 19 while the oldest was 51, she said.
"Not all the bodies have been identified yet. The rest will be buried after the forensic medical examination," she added.
The country paid its respects with lowered flags and cancellations of entertainment and sports events.
Celebrations for Russian Naval Day in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, which hosts a Russian naval base, began with a minute of silence to remember the dead, an AFP journalist witnessed.
"We express our sympathy and condolences with the relatives of the victims," the commander of the Russian Black sea fleet Alexander Fedotenko said.
He added that all the entertainment events for Navy Day, a landmark holiday, had been cancelled.
Fatal accidents are frequent in Ukrainian mines, most of which are located in the country’s industrial eastern region. Many mines are underfunded and poorly equipped, while safety violations are rife.
Photo: Khudoteply, AFP/Getty Images