30 killed in Siberian mine blast
MOSCOW: At least 30 coalminers were killed Saturday in an explosion in a pit in southern Siberia and 23 remained trapped underground, a spokesman for rescue services said.
Methane gas caused the early-morning explosion 560 metres down at the Taizhina pit in the Kuzbass mining area, a spokeswoman for Kemerovo region said.
Reports had also previously spoken of 16 survivors brought to safety, but the spokesman said this figure had been revised downwards to only eight, following a mix-up in the counting.
A team of 150 workers, some from the nearby city of Krasnoyarsk, were drafted in to help the rescue effort, expected to continue into the night.
The governor of the Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev, went to the scene to comfort the miners’ families and oversee the rescue operation.
We haven’t had any contact (with the missing men),” he told NTV television network. “The gallery is blocked and it is difficult to tell how big the blockage is.”
“For now, we are trying (to reach the miners) through the adjacent Assinkovskaya mine. The route is longer (around five kilometres) but less arduous,” said Tuleyev, who was keeping Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov briefed on developments.
A spokesman for the governor said methane, which is explosive when mixed with air, was the likely cause.
The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted mine director Valery Naumkin as saying the blast’s effects were hindering rescue efforts. Relatives of the miners were bused to the mine’s administration building, Rossiya reported. It showed footage of dilapidated-looking mine structures above the ground and of miners who arrived for the next shift but were sent away after the accident, which occurred at about 7:00am. “We came for our shift. They’re sending us home,” miner Igor Chernousov told the network.
Accidents are common in the Russian coal industry, and miners stage frequent protests over wage delays and declining safety standards. The Russian mining industry, largely unprofitable and suffering from underfunding, is notoriously accident-prone, with several fatal incidents over the past months. —Agencies