Mining accident in Russia kills 11

  • Dozens of people trapped underground, rescue efforts halted
  • Rescue workers fear an explosion
  • Last accident to hit the heart of Russian coal mines

MOSCOW, Nov. 25 (Reuters) – At least 11 miners died Thursday in a coal mining accident in Russian Siberia and an operation to rescue dozens more people trapped underground has been suspended due to the risk of explosion, said the governor of the region.

Coal dust caught fire in a ventilation shaft at the Listvyazhnaya mine in the snow-capped Kemerovo region early Thursday, filling the mine with smoke, the TASS news agency said citing local emergency services.

“The risk of explosion is very high. We have decided to suspend search and rescue operations until the gas concentration decreases,” said regional governor Sergei Tsivilev. The levels of methane and CO2 were dangerously high, he said.

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Eleven people were dead and 35 others were still underground, he said. Dozens have been treated in hospital, at least some of them with smoke poisoning. Four were in critical condition.

The Kemerovo coal industry, about 3,500 km east of Moscow, has been affected by fatal accidents for years.

The mine is part of SDS-Holding, owned by the private company Siberian Business Union. The union did not immediately comment.

Before the rescue operation stopped, the governor said there was still electricity and ventilation in the mine, but they had lost contact with some people deep underground.

“At the moment there is no thick smoke, so we hope there is no fire,” Tsivilev said on his Telegram channel. “We have no line of communication with these people, the underground communication system is not working.”

Some 285 people were inside the mine when smoke spread through the ventilation shaft, the emergency ministry said. At least 239 reached above the ground, authorities said. They did not say what caused the smoke.

‘GRAND MALFORTUNE’

On state television, President Vladimir Putin said he had spoken to the governor and emergency officials, calling the accident “a great misfortune”.

“Unfortunately, the situation is not improving. And there is a danger to the lives of the rescuers … We hope they can save as many people as possible,” he said.

The Kremlin said Putin ordered the emergency minister to visit the region to help.

Kemerovo declared a three-day mourning period.

In 2007, Kemerovo was the site of the worst mining accident since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 when an explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine claimed the lives of more than 100 people.

In 2010, explosions at the region’s Raspadskaya mine killed more than 90 people.

The law enforcement agency’s regional branch of the Inquiry Committee said it had opened a criminal case for negligence causing death.

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Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Alexander Marrow, Anastasia Lyrchikova and Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Alexander Marrow / Tom Balmforth; Editing by Stephen Coates and Bernadette Baum

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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