Two victims of Bois du Cazier mine fire identified


August 8 1956, 262 miners lost their lives in the Bois du Cazier mine fire in Marcinelle (Charleroi). Almost 67 years after the disaster, a multidisciplinary team of volunteer researchers was able to formally give a name to two of the 14 victims that couldn’t be identified at the time.

Text: Maloïse Frédérick

This comes after an initiative started in 2019 by Michele Cicora, the son of one of those miners. In 2021 the unidentified bodies were exhumed at the cemetery of Marcinelle, with the goal to use the progress of science to correctly link the bodies to the individuals.

This task was conducted with the help of researchers from the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) of the Belgian Federal Police, as well as forensic scientists, odontologists and anthropologists, among others. Small fragments of the bones were used to conduct DNA analysis which allowed to establish comparisons with the DNA of living relatives.


Results of the study are a significant relief to the families of the two miners who were successfully identified, yet some disappointment persists as 12 victims remain unknown. There were four formal exclusions as no DNA match could be established – ironically, Francesco Cicora is one of them. For five others, results were inconclusive: the descendants found were not in direct line or not numerous enough to gain certainty. Finally, there are three bodies for whom no relatives could be found to make comparisons.

Caroline Polet, anthropologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, was involved in the project: "We helped excavate the individuals, sieved everything on and around the body so as not to miss a single clue, and cleaned the skeletons. Then we examined all the bones to deduce their sex and estimate age and stature. And we also examined whether there were any notable features or pathologies. That already provided certain hypotheses, which could then be confirmed or refuted by DNA testing.”

For families still waiting for answers, hope persists as the investigation could go on and an additional body is expected to be exhumed soon.