Coal dust caught fire on a ventilation shaft at the Listvyazhnaya mine in the snow-covered Kemerovo region, filling the mine with smoke, the TASS news agency quoted local emergency services as saying.
Eleven people were found dead, regional governor Sergei Tsivilev said, and 46 were still underground. Dozens more were being treated in hospital, at least some of them with smoke poisoning. Four were in critical condition.
Rescue workers and ambulances could be seen arriving at the mine complex in video footage, with police gathered outside as it snowed in the region approximately 3,500 km (2,175 miles) east of Moscow.
About 285 people were inside the mine when the smoke spread through the ventilation shaft, the emergency ministry said. At least 239 came out on the ground, authorities said. They did not say what caused the smoke.
Tsivilev said there was no more heavy smoke in the mine, where there was still electricity and ventilation, but that contact with some people had been lost deep underground.
“There is no heavy smoke at the moment, so we hope there will be no fire,” Tsivilev said in comments to the video shared on his Telegram channel. “We do not have communication lines with these people, the underground communication system does not work.”
The regional branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal case for negligence that had caused the death.
“According to preliminary data, a number of workers have suffered from smoke poisoning. The number of victims is being specified,” she said in an earlier statement.
The mine is part of SDS-Holding, owned by the privately held Siberian Business Union. The union had no immediate comment.
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