Russia: More than 50 reported deaths in the Siberian coal mine

GRAMOTEINO, RUSSIA: More than 50 people were reported to have died on Thursday after smoke filled a Siberian coal mine and a rescue operation ended in tragedy.
Senior executives at the mine in Russia’s Kemerovo region had been jailed for suspected security breaches, following the recent fatal accident that hit the country’s huge mining industry.
Russian news agencies quoted local authorities as saying that 52 people were killed, including miners and six rescuers who had been part of an interrupted search operation.
“According to preliminary information, no one is left alive in the mine”, state news agency PAW quoted a source in the local rescue service as saying.
The Listvyazhnaya mine, near the town of Belovo in the Kemerovo mining region, was filled with smoke early on Thursday with 285 people inside.
Most were able to evacuate, but officials had said 35 miners were missing.
It was not immediately clear what caused the accident, although some Russian media reported that dust in a ventilation shaft caught fire and caused the mine to fill with smoke.
News agency RIA Novosti quoted prosecutors as saying that a spark may have triggered a methane explosion.
A search and rescue operation was launched but was suspended several hours later after officials warned of the threat of an explosion.
There were reports of rescue workers running out of oxygen and news agencies said the bodies of six of them were found.
The private news agency Interfax quoted a local official as saying that they had been strangled.
Russia’s investigative committee, which is investigating major cases, launched a criminal investigation and said three people had been jailed, including the 47-year-old head of the mine and his 59-year-old first deputy.
“During the initial investigation, it was found that the detainees had violated the occupational safety requirements,” the committee wrote in a statement.
Nearly 40 people were hospitalized, regional authorities said.
The governor declared a three-day mourning period in the region beginning on Friday.
Earlier in the day, residents of the village of Gramoteino gathered next to the mine in snowfall and sub-zero temperatures outside the entrance to the facility, which was closed off with a barrier gate as ambulances passed in and out.
There was no panic but the audience was tense and refused to talk to journalists.
“This is a great tragedy,” the president said Vladimir Putin said during talks with the Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic and Sochi.
The Listvyazhnaya mine was established in 1956 and is owned by SDS-Ugol company based in the city of Kemerovo.
A methane explosion in 2004 killed 13 people at the mine and another explosion at the site killed five people in 1981.
Gravel accidents are quite common in Russia and the former Soviet Union due to poor safety standards, lack of supervision of working conditions and aging Soviet equipment.
One of the deadliest mining accidents in Russia in recent years occurred at Raspadskaya the mine in Siberia – Russia’s largest coal mine – in the summer of 2010, killed 91 people and left more than 100 injured.
The incident was the result of a methane explosion when more than 300 miners were inside. A second explosion then captured a group of rescuers.
In 2007, 110 people died after a gas explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine, in the same region.
In addition to the fatal accidents, activists have drawn attention to environmental practices in mines in Russia, one of the world’s largest mineral producers.

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