More than 50 miners and rescuers died after a coal mine explosion in Russia

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Rescuers have found a survivor in a Siberian mine where a gas leak killed more than 50 people in one of the worst disasters to hit Russia’s coal heart since Soviet times.

The disaster in the Kemerovo region killed 51 people on Thursday, including six rescuers who were sent down to try to rescue dozens of men trapped deep underground.

Sergei Tsivilyov, governor of the Kemerovo region, said the survivor was found in the Listvyazhnaya mine and taken to hospital. He was a rescuer who was believed to be dead. Governor Tsivilyov said it was highly unlikely to find other survivors at this time.

Hours after a methane gas explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic fumes on Thursday, rescue workers were forced to suspend the search due to an accumulation of methane and carbon monoxide gas from the fire.

A total of 239 people were rescued from the mine; 63 of them sought medical help on Friday morning, according to Kemerovo officials.

The state news agencies Tass and RIA-Novosti had on Thursday quoted rescue officials who said there was no chance of finding more survivors, and set the death toll at 52 on Thursday night. The survivor rescued on Friday morning reduced the number to 51.

It was the deadliest mine accident in Russia since 2010, when two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same Kemerovo region.

Regional officials declared three days of mourning.

Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor Dmitry Demeshin told reporters that the fire was probably due to 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 just started going out, as many as we could,” said one of the rescued miners, Sergey Golubin, in televised comments.

“We did not even understand what happened first and took in some gas.”

Rescuers are preparing to work at a fire site near a coal mine

(AP)

Another miner, Rustam Chebelkov, recalled the dramatic moment when he was rescued along with his comrades when chaos engulfed the mine.

“I crawled and then I felt how they grabbed me,” he said. “I stretched out my arms towards them, they could not see me, the visibility was poor. They grabbed me and pulled me out, if not for them we would have been dead. ”

Explosions of methane released from coal beds during mining are rare, but they cause the most deaths in the coal mining industry.

The news agency Interfax reported that miners have an oxygen supply that normally lasts for six hours, which could be extended for a few more hours but which should have expired by Thursday.

Russia’s investigative committee has launched a criminal investigation into the fire, which violated security regulations that led to deaths.

Five people have been arrested so far, including the mine chief, two state security inspectors and two senior executives.

President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the dead and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to the injured.

Thursday’s fire was not the first fatal accident at the Listvyazhnaya mine – in 2004, 13 miners were killed by a methane explosion.

In 2007, a methane explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine in the Kemerovo region killed 110 miners in the deadliest Soviet-era mine accident.

In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in the far north of Russia.

In the wake of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34%, potentially unsafe.

The Listvyazhnaya mine was not among them at the time, according to media reports.

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

Reporting by the Associated Press

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