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Pit Workers in the Old Days #6 (Gas Explosion)
1958 - 1963

Mukashi no Yamabito #6 (Gasu Bakuhatsu)
[Pit Workers in the Old Days #6 (Gas Explosion)]
21.2 x 30.4 cm Ink Painting

Text at the Bottom Right
A "gas explosion" was dialectally called a "gasuke." Since miners in the old days knew nothing about prevention against gas accidents, some of them were injured by explosions of methane gas. This gas had accumulated since the previous night. It exploded when a hewer raised his lamp near the roof of the end of an ascending coalface as soon as he entered the pit in the morning. A gas explosion at a coalface victimized only a sakiyama (coal hewer) working there and at most the blast extinguished all the lights of lamps used by other workers underground, because each hewer mined only his own single coalface at that time. It was said that no pit automatically used gas detectors, and only underground bosses knew the danger of firedamp (lighter than air). Much gas accumulated at each coalface because it was not mined by both of the 1st and 2nd shift workers, but was instead allotted to an individual miner.

Text at the Top Right
There was no huge coal dust or gas explosion at that time to ruin a whole pit like those which we have experienced since the Taisho era (1912-1926). However, a few miners were sometimes burnt by a gas explosion. It was said that the fire caused by a gas explosion violently gushed out and returned after filling the working face, and that the fire was stronger near the roof. The air lay near the bottom of the coalface, with the thickness of 4 or 5 sun (about 12 to 15 cm). It was more fatally dangerous for miners to inhale the burning gas than to have their skin burned. Miners called gezainins [ex-convicts; some miners were really ex-convicts, and others also sometimes humbly called themselves gezainins] working naked were badly burned in gas explosions.

Text at the Bottom Left
This painting shows the gas explosion disaster at a working face of a series of coal and rock layers called "sanjaku" and/or a thin coal bed called "shakunashi" in K Coal Pit around 1899.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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