Mining accident in Siberia: the toll rises to 52 dead

285 people were in the coal mine when authorities were notified of the smoke. The causes of the incident are not yet known.

The death toll from the accident which occurred in a Siberian mine on Friday rose to 52, Russian news agencies reported, citing a source within the emergency services.

“According to preliminary information, no one survived in the mine. 52 people died,” said this source, quoted by the official TASS news agency. RIA Novosti and Interfax news agencies also reported this statement, specifying that there were 46 minors and 6 rescuers among the dead.

285 people in the mine at the time of the accident

Forty-three people were hospitalized, including four in serious condition, according to a previous report communicated by the authorities.

“It is a great tragedy”, declared President Vladimir Poutine on television, paying tribute to the rescue services which “are doing everything possible” and stressing that “there is a danger even for the rescuers”.

The authorities had indicated that they had received an alert around 2.35 am on the presence of smoke in the Listviajnaya mine in the town of Gramoteïno, in the Siberian region of Kemerovo, where many coal mines are located. According to the press service of local governor Sergei Tsivilev, 285 people were in the mine at the time of the accident, the causes of which were not immediately known.

The families and relatives of the miners, gathered in front of the entrance to the territory of the mine did not wish to speak, according to an AFP correspondent on the spot. Three days of mourning were decreed in the region from Friday, according to the decision of the local authorities.

An investigation for “violation of safety standards” launched

An accident in the Listviajnaya mine had already taken place in October 2004, when a methane explosion killed 13 people. According to Russian media, an explosion also killed five people there in 1981, during Soviet times.

According to a statement from local authorities, 19 specialized rescue teams from the ministry are on site and were trying, until the suspension of operations, to reach the most remote gallery of the mine, where the missing people could be found.

The local investigation committee said for its part that an investigation for “violation of safety standards” had been launched. The mine is owned by SDS-Ugol, one of Russia’s largest coal producers.

Accidents in mines in Russia, as elsewhere in the former USSR, are often linked to laxity in the application of safety standards, poor management or dilapidated equipment dating back to Soviet times.

Many past accidents

In May 2010, an accident left 91 dead and more than a hundred injured in the Raspadskaya mine, also in the Kemerovo region.

More recently, in October 2019, the rupture of a dam in a gold mine in Siberia left 17 people dead. The same month, three people were killed in an accident at a mine of the Norilsk Nickel group, the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium, in the Arctic.

In August 2017, eight workers were reported missing after a flood in a diamond mine in Siberia. The world’s leading producer of diamonds, Alrosa had announced the abandonment of the search after three weeks of relief operations.

Beyond the human tolls, sometimes heavy, some accidents draw attention to the practices of the Russian mining industry, often to the detriment of the environment

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