Dozens missing as death toll rises in Russia mine blasts

Rescue teams re-entered the mine late on Sunday after a build-up of methane halted the search for most of the day.

Dozens missing as death toll rises in Russia mine blasts

Underground explosions killed 30 people and trapped 60 more in Russia's worst mine disaster in three years, emergency officials said on Monday as they raced against rising floodwaters.

Nearly 300 miners escaped or were rescued after the methane blasts at the weekend, but the death toll at the Raspadskaya coal mine, 3,000 km (1,850 miles) east of Moscow, rose from 12 overnight as more bodies were found underground, the ministry said in a statement.

Time was running out to rescue people from areas of the mine where anti-flooding systems had failed, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said. "We have 48 hours," Russian news agencies reported him as saying.

The toll makes the disaster the deadliest in a Russian mine since May 2007, when 39 died as a result of a methane explosion at Yubileynaya mine, which is also located in the coal-rich Kemerovo region of Western Siberia.

A criminal investigation has been opened into possible safety violations, the Prosecutor General's Office said.

More than 350 miners were underground when the first explosion rocked the mine just before midnight (1700 GMT) on Saturday, and dozens were trapped by the blast.

Nineteen rescuers were themselves trapped underground when a second blast early on Sunday forced emergency teams to halt their efforts.

The bodies of 17 rescuers were found on Sunday night after a fall in methane levels allowed colleagues to re-enter the mine. Sixty-five people are being treated for injuries, the emergency ministry said.

More than 500 people were involved in the rescue effort on Monday, the Emergency Ministry said. It said ventilation and electricity had been restored to the mine.

"The situation is clearly serious," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a televised video conference with rescue leaders on Sunday. "We need to do everything possible to save the people."

Rising flood waters were complicating the rescue effort. Every hour 2,000 cubic meters of water were pouring into two areas of the mine where at least 13 people were trapped, news agencies reported, citing the emergencies ministry.

Rescued miners were earlier led to ambulances with blood-stained clothes as crying relatives gathered nearby, television pictures showed on Sunday. Smoke poured from the burned remains of an administrative building destroyed in the second explosion.

"Tell us the truth ... there's likely no one alive", a relative was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. "Let those who want to go inside (the mine)," shouted another, the mother of a 25-year-old miner with a newborn son.

The mine in the city of Mezhdurechensk had reserves of some 450 million tons of coal and produced 8.9 million tons in 2007, according to the Raspadskaya company. It says the pit is the largest underground mine in Russia.

Raspadskaya Russia's largest standalone coking coal producer, is part-owned by steel-and-mining firm Evraz Group.

Mine explosions and other industrial accidents have prompted repeated calls from Russia's leaders for improvements to creaking infrastructure and stricter adherence to safety rules. Kremlin critics say little has been done.


Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2010, 13:28
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