Multiple explosions in Russian coal mine, eleven dead

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Reports suggest methane gas was to blame for two explosions in a Russian coal mine which are thought to have left up to twelve miners dead and eighty others unaccounted for. Local officials say at least 41 miners have been injured.

The explosions come after calls for coal mines in Russia to improve their poor safety records.

Over three hundred miners were underground when the first explosion occurred just prior to midnight on Saturday night and most of them were brought safely to the surface. However, officials report that eleven miners died in the first explosion.

Around three hours later a second explosion occurred and authorities on the surface lost contact with a rescue team below. Following the second explosion, an emergency services ministry spokeswoman told the media that rescue operations had been suspended indefinitely.

Aman Tuleyev, the governor of Siberia's western Kemerovo region, has taken charge of the rescue operation. Tuleyev said the second blast had caused more injuries and destroyed the main air shaft. He also stated that there was a risk of more explosions.

"The rescue work will continue when the atmosphere in the mine is restored, but to conduct rescue work now means to send people to their death," he said. Reports suggest emergency workers are attempting to pump breathable air into the mine.

The mine, owned by Russian company Raspadskaya, is the largest underground coal mine in Russia. A worker was killed after part of the mine collapsed in January 2010.