RUDA SLASKA, Poland – Eight coal miners were killed Tuesday in a suspected gas explosion in a southern Poland mine, and fears were growing as rescuers tried to reach 15 others trapped more than 3,000 feet underground, officials said. The accident occurred as the men were demolishing a wall in an underground corridor at the Halemba coal mine in the city of Ruda Slaska, said Southern Mining Co., which operates the mine. Grzegorz Pawlaszek, head of the state-owned Coal Co., said rescue teams had recovered seven bodies from the scene. Another body had been located but couldn’t be reached because the high concentration of methane gas had prompted fears of another explosion. He said the fate of the other 15 was “not known.” Still, Pawlaszek said, there was a “chance” of finding someone alive.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’The men were among a group of 31 miners who had been removing equipment from a shaft that had been closed because it was deemed too dangerous, said Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who flew to the mine and met with rescuers. He said eight miners had managed to escape. “This is a tragedy. People have died here,” Kaczynski said. Officials and priests were counseling distraught relatives who gathered at the mine complex. Eight white candles were burning on a low wall outside the main gate. Rescue workers who had been digging through rock and rubble in hope of finding survivors were monitoring the concentration of gas seeping out before deciding whether to push ahead, Pawlaszek said. Locator devices carried by the missing miners were emitting no signals, he said. A spokesman for Southern Mining, Zbigniew Madej, said ventilation systems in the mine had also been damaged.