Russian officials say 52 miners and rescuers have died after a devastating blast in a Siberian coal mine about 250 meters (820 feet) underground
By DARIA LITVINOVA and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated Press
November 25, 2021, 9: 16 PM
3 min read
MOSCOW — A devastating explosion in a Siberian coal mine Thursday left 52 miners and rescuers dead about 250 meters (820 feet) underground, Russian officials said.
Hours after a methane gas explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic fumes, rescuers found 14 bodies but then were forced to halt the search for 38 others because of a buildup of methane and carbon monoxide gas from the fire. Another 239 people were rescued.
The state Tass news agency and RIA-Novosti media agencies cited emergency officials who stated that there was no possibility of finding more survivors at the Listvyazhnaya Mine, located in the Kemerovo Region of southwestern Siberia.
The Interfax news agency cited a representative of the regional administration who also put the death toll from Thursday’s accident at 52, saying they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
It was the deadliest mine accident in Russia since 2010, when two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same Kemerovo region.
A total of 285 people were in the Listvyazhnaya mine early Thursday when the blast sent smoke that quickly filled the mine through the ventilation system. Rescuers led to the surface 239 miners, 49 of whom were injured, and found 11 bodies. Later in the day, six rescuers died while trying to find others trapped in a remote part of the mine.
Regional officials declared three days of mourning.
Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Dmitry Demeshin told reporters that the fire most likely resulted from a methane explosion caused by a spark.
The miners who survived described their shock after reaching the surface.
“Impact. Air. Dust. Sergey Golubin, one of the rescue miners, stated in televised remarks that they smelled gas. “Then, we didn’t even realize what had happened at first and took some gas in.” “We didn’t even realize what happened at first and took some gas in.”
Another miner, Rustam Chebelkov, recalled the dramatic moment when he was rescued along with his comrades as chaos engulfed the mine.
” “I felt them grasping me as I was crawling,” he stated. I reached out for them with my arms, but they couldn’t see me because of the poor visibility. They grabbed me and pulled me out, if not for them, we’d be dead.”
Explosions of methane released from coal beds during mining are rare but they cause the most fatalities in the coal mining industry.
Interfax reported that miners are provided with oxygen for six hours, but that this could be extended for only a few hours.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into the fire over violations of safety regulations that led to deaths. According to the report, the mine director and two top managers were taken into custody.
President Vladimir Putin extended his condolences to the families of the dead and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to those injured.
Thursday’s fire wasn’t the first deadly accident at the Listvyazhnaya mine. In 2004, a methane explosion left 13 miners dead.
In 2007, a methane explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine in the Kemerovo region killed 110 miners in the deadliest mine accident since Soviet times.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34%, potentially unsafe. According to media reports, the Listvyazhnaya coal mine was not among those at the time.
Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, inspected the mine in April and registered 139 violations, including breaching fire safety regulations.
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