Hopes fade as Russian mine death toll rises

Dozens of workers were still missing in a maze of tunnels threatened by flooding, emergency officials said.

Hopes fade as Russian mine death toll rises

The death toll from a Siberian coal mine disaster at the weekend rose to 43 on Tuesday and dozens of workers were still missing in a maze of tunnels threatened by flooding, emergency officials said.

As hopes faded for the 47 people still underground after Russia's worst mine disaster in three years, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met grieving relatives and injured survivors in a hardbitten region that lives on coal.

Emergency workers used heavy machinery and their bare hands to dig through the rubble of a wrecked building on the surface at the Raspadskaya mine in the city of Mezhdurechensk, about 3,000 km (1,850 miles) east of Moscow.

"When you have lost a loved one, it is so terrible and so tragic that no words of condolence are fitting," Putin told relatives of the dead. "I want you to know, we all want you to know, that you are not alone."

More than 350 miners were underground when two explosions hit Raspadskaya at the weekeend. Many of them managed to escape.

Aman Tuleyev, governor of the Kemerovo region, said time was running out to rescue those trapped in areas of the mine where anti-flooding systems had failed.

Valery Korchagin, Emergencies Ministry spokesman in the region, said 19 of the dead were rescuers who went into the sprawling mine after the initial blast.

News agencies have quoted Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying that a sudden burst of methane and coal dust could have caused the disaster.

The mine disaster unfolded as Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev hosted foreign leaders and honoured veterans in huge celebrations on Sunday marking the 65th anniversary of the World War Two defeat of Nazi Germany.

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.

The Raspadskaya mine has reserves of some 450 million tonnes of coal and produced 8.9 million tonnes in 2007, according to company officials. Raspadskaya is part-owned by steel-and-mining firm Evraz Group.


Reuters

Last Mod: 11 Mayıs 2010, 11:05
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