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Six miners were killed Monday in an explosion in an underground mine in West Virginia, an official said.

Twenty-one other miners were unaccounted for and 21 others were hurt in the blast, which occurred in Raleigh County, according to Boone County dispatcher Michael Mayhorn.

Raleigh County officials called his office and those of nearby Logan and Kanawha counties to assist in responding to a mine collapse, he said. At least 20 ambulances and three helicopters were dispatched, and the state medical examiner was en route, Mayhorn said.

The explosion happened at about 4:30 p.m. at Massey Energy’s Performance Coal Co. mine in Whitesville, 30 miles south of Charleston, CNN affiliate WCSH reported.

The company identified the facility as Upper Big Branch Mine.

Massey Energy Co., based in Richmond, Virginia, has operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. It is the largest coal producer in Central Appalachia, it said in a statement.

Three other deaths have happened in the Upper Big Branch Mine in the past 12 years, according to federal records. In 1998, a man was killed when a beam he was constructing collapsed; in 2001, a worker died after a rock fell on him; and in 2003, an electrician who was repairing a shuttle car was found dead, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. CNN

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