A gas leak and explosion at a coal mine in Siberia on Thursday killed at least 52 people, including six rescuers in the country’s worst mining disaster in more than a decade, Russian officials said.
The accident happened early in the morning at the Listvyazhnaya mine in Russia’s Kemerovo region, about 2,200 miles east of Moscow, after a ventilation shaft began to fill with gas. Reported the Commission of Inquiry.
Rescue efforts at the mine, which sinks 1,300 feet to the ground, continued throughout the day even though the death toll continued to rise. The miners who were initially considered missing were gradually relocated to the death list until late Thursday, when authorities said they had been forced to suspend rescue operations due to a high concentration of methane in the mine.
Interfax, the Russian news agency, reported that there seemed to be no hope of finding anyone else alive.
At least some of the dead were workers who drowned. Others may be trapped.
The country’s deputy attorney general told Interfax that a methane explosion had made it impossible for miners to leave.
A miner, Mikhail Pozdnyakov, told Channel One, the Russian national television network, that he had heard a loud noise and that he could not see anything afterwards.
Everything was filled with dust and ashes, and whoever could fell fell to the ground, Mr. Pozdnyakov said from a hospital. Seven people went out with me and five were left there.
Coal mining accidents have been common in Russia since Soviet times, some of which are attributed to sporadic enforcement of regulations.
This year alone, several government agencies have inspected the Listvyazhnaya mine dozens of times. They uncovered hundreds of violations, issued fines and even ordered the suspension of work, the Russian technology watchdog said in a statement.
But the mine was open for work on Thursday, and at the end of the day, dozens were left dead.
The Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal investigation into the disaster and had already arrested the director of the mines, his deputy and the head of the mining sector where the incident took place.
The Kemerovo region accounts for more than half of the coal produced in Russia. It has also been the site of some of the most serious mining accidents.
In 2007, an explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine killed more than 100 people. In 2010, more than 90 people were killed in two explosions at the Raskadskaya mine. In 2004, 13 miners died in the same mine where the blast occurred on Thursday.
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