Russian media reported that 52 victims died from accidents at Siberian coal mines.
Initially, eleven victims were confirmed dead after coal dust from a ventilation shaft ignited early Thursday morning. This caused the mine to fill with smoke.
The rescue effort had been intended to help survivors but it ended in tragedy.
A rescue team that was trying to reach the surface lost contact with it, and at least three of its rescuers died. Local media suggests the death toll may be higher.
There were 285 miners in the mine when the accident occurred. Most of them fled. Officials said that 49 of those injured were admitted to the hospital. Four of those injured are in critical condition, while four others have suffered from smoke poisoning.
According to reports, 35 miners were still missing from the Listvyazhnaya Mine, located in the Kemerovo Region, some 3,500km (2.175 mi) east of Moscow.
The death toll was reported by both the Russian state news agency Tass, and the privately owned Interfax on Thursday night. One emergency services source told Tass that “no one survived”.
The number of fatalities among rescue workers is unknown. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that a source said some members of the search team had exhausted their oxygen supplies.
Because of fears about dangerously high methane levels in the mine, the search for survivors was stopped earlier Thursday.
Sergei Tsivilev, the local governor, stated in Telegram video that work will resume as soon as gas concentrations are lower to safe levels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that he hopes “(they’ll be able) to save as many people possible”, and described the death of his family members as “a great tragicle”.
According to local media reports, this isn’t the first incident at the mine. In 2004, 13 people were killed by methane gas. More generally, Russian mine accidents are common.
Authorities assessed safety at 58 national coal mines in 2016 and found 34% to be potentially unsafe. Russian reports state that at the time the Listvyazhnaya mining site was not on the list.
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