The Courrières mine disaster, Europe's worst mining accident, caused the death of 1,099 miners (including many children) in Northern France on 10 March 1906. This disaster was surpassed only by the Benxihu Colliery accident in China on April 26, 1942, which killed 1,549 miners. A dust explosion, the cause of which is not known with certainty, devastated a coal mine operated by the Compagnie des mines de houille de Courrières (founded in 1852) between the villages of Méricourt (404 people killed), Sallaumines (304 killed), Billy-Montigny (114 people killed), and Noyelles-sous-Lens (102 people killed) about 2 km (1 mi) to the east of Lens, in the Pas-de-Calais département (about 220 km, or 140 miles, north of Paris).
A large explosion was heard shortly after 06:30 on the morning of Saturday 10 March 1906. An elevator cage at Shaft 3 was thrown to the surface, damaging pit-head workings; windows and roofs were blown out on the surface at Shaft 4; an elevator cage raised at Shaft 2 contained only dead or unconscious miners.