Tragedy in Russia: death toll rises to 52 after coal mine explosion

Hours after a methane gas explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic gases, rescuers found 14 bodies, but were later forced to halt the search for another 38 due to the build-up of methane gas and carbon monoxide from the fire. . A total of 239 people were rescued.

State news agencies Tass and RIA-Novosti quoted emergency officials as saying that “there was no possibility of finding any more survivors at the Listvyazhnaya mine” in the Kemerovo region of southwestern Siberia.

The Interfax news agency quoted a representative from the regional administration who also put the death toll at 52, saying they died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

A total of 285 people were at the Listvyazhnaya mine early Thursday when the blast sent smoke that quickly filled the mine through the ventilation system. Rescue teams brought 239 miners to the surface, 49 of whom were injured, and found 11 bodies.

Later in the day, six rescuers were also killed while searching for others trapped in a remote section of the mine, news reports said. Regional officials declared three days of mourning.

Russia’s Deputy Attorney General Dmitry Demeshin told reporters that the fire was most likely caused by a methane explosion caused by a spark.

The surviving miners described their shock after reaching the surface. “Impact. Air. Dust. And then we smelled gas and started going out, as many as we could, “said one of the rescued miners, Sergey Golubin, in televised remarks. “We didn’t even realize what happened at first and we inhaled some gas.”

Another miner, Rustam Chebelkov, recalled the dramatic moment when he was rescued along with his companions when chaos engulfed the mine. “I was crawling and then I felt like they grabbed me,” he said.

“I extended my arms towards them, they couldn’t see me, the visibility was bad. They grabbed me and took me out, if it weren’t for them, we would be dead. “

Methane explosions released from coal beds during mining are rare, but cause the majority of fatalities in the coal mining industry.

The Interfax news agency reported that the miners have oxygen supplies that normally last six hours and can only stretch for a few more hours.

On the other hand, the Russian Investigation Committee launched a criminal investigation into the fire for violations of safety regulations that led to deaths. He said the mine manager and two senior managers were arrested.

Russian President Vladimir Putin extended his condolences to the families of the dead and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to the wounded.

Thursday’s fire was not the first fatal accident at the Listvyazhnaya mine. In 2004, a methane explosion killed 13 miners. 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 at a coal mine in the far north of Russia. Following the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared that 20 of them, or 34%, were potentially unsafe.

The Listvyazhnaya mine was not among them at the time, according to media reports. This was the deadliest mine accident in Russia since 2010, when two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine, also in the Kemerovo region.

Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog Rostekhnadzor inspected the mine in April and recorded 139 violations, including violation of fire safety regulations.

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