12 dead, 83 trapped in Russian coal mine
MOSCOW (AP) — Rescue workers scrambled Sunday to save 83 people trapped in Russia’s largest underground coal mine after two powerful explosions killed at least 12 people and injured 58, officials said. Among those trapped were rescue workers who had entered the Siberian mine after the first blast.
The second, more powerful explosion destroyed the main air shaft and all of the mine’s above-ground structures, the governor of the Siberian region of Kemerovo told Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a meeting with emergency officials, according to a government transcript.
No more rescue workers would be sent into the mine until the methane was pumped out for fear of further explosions, Gov. Aman Tuleyev said.
More than 500 emergency workers from around the country struggled throughout the day to ventilate the mine and rebuild mine shafts so the search for those trapped could resume, said Valery Korchagin, spokesman for the Emergency Ministry in Kemerovo.
The official directing the search operation said he hoped this could be done by late Sunday.
“Our unit is ready to go on a reconnaissance mission as soon as the concentration of methane in the air is lowered. We hope this can happen by midnight local time (1700GMT),” said Sergei Sharov, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The first blast, believed to have been caused by methane, hit the Raspadskaya mine just before midnight Saturday and the second about 3½ hours later. There were 359 workers below ground at the time of the first explosion, the Emergency Ministry said.
The Raspadskaya mine produces about 8 million tons (8.8 million short tons) of coal a year, according to the company’s website.
The Kemerovo region is about 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) east of Moscow.
There was no immediate information on what set off the blast. Mine explosions and other industrial accidents are common in Russia and other former Soviet republics, and are often blamed on inadequate implementation of safety precautions by companies or by workers themselves.
In December, nine people were killed in an explosion at an iron-ore mine in the Urals Mountains region that was blamed on faulty transportation of explosives.