The Monongah Mine disaster of Monongah, West Virginia took place on December 6, 1907 and has been described as "the worst mining disaster in American History". The explosion was thought to have been caused by the ignition of methane (also called "firedamp"), which ignited the coal dust in mines number 6 and 8.
Rescue workers could only work in the mines for 15 minutes due to the lack of breathing equipment. Some of those workers also perished due to the poisonous gas.
Officially, the lives of 362 boys and men were lost in the underground explosion, leaving 250 widows and over 1000 children without male support. In October 1964 Reverend Everett Francis Briggs stated that "a fairer estimate of the victims of the Monongah Disaster would be upward of 500". This estimate is corroborated by the research of Davitt McAteer, Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health at the United States Department of Labor during the Clinton administration. The exact death toll remains unknown.
Many of the victims (171) were Italians who had migrated from San Giovanni in Fiore, San Nicola dell'Alto, Falerna, Gizzeria, Civitella Roveto, Duronia, Civita d'Antino, Canistro, Torella del Sannio and other villages in Calabria, Abruzzo and Molise. The ruins of the coal mines have been sealed shut with bricks. Many of the original mining homes were built on the hillside above the mine.