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Three German miners killed in K+S potash blast

UNTERBREIZBACH, Germany (Reuters) - Three miners were killed on Tuesday after breathing leaked carbon dioxide following a controlled explosion at a potash mine operated by K+S in the German state of Thueringia, the company said.

The accident happened in a 700-metre deep shaft near the town of Unterbreizbach. Four other miners were rescued.

"A carbon dioxide leak occurred to an extent we did not expect after an explosion, and this led to the people dying," Rainer Gerling, manager of the mine, told a news conference.

Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in potash deposits that are mined using controlled explosions.

"After the explosions, we carry out checks to see how much carbon dioxide is in the mine. This was the actual job of these employees, and they were then surprised by the occurrence of CO2 on the site," Gerling said.

K+S said the authorities were investigating the incident.

(Reporting by Tilman Blasshofer,; writing by Harro ten Wolde; editing by James Jukwey and Tom Pfeiffer)