Survivor rescued from coal mine accident in Siberia; at least 51 presumed dead
Rescue crews have found a survivor in a Siberian coal mine where dozens of miners are presumed dead after a devastating methane explosion, a senior regional official said Friday.
Kemerovo region Gov. Sergei Tsivilyov said on the messaging app Telegram that the survivor was found in the Listvyazhnaya mine in southwestern Siberia, and “he is being taken to the hospital.”
Russia’s acting Emergency Minister Alexander Chupriyan identified the survivor as rescuer Alexander Zakovryashin, who had been presumed dead.
“I can consider it a miracle,” Chupriyan said.
Zakovryashin was conscious when rescuers reached him and has been hospitalized with moderate carbon monoxide poisoning, according to emergency officials.
Authorities on Thursday confirmed 14 fatalities — 11 miners and three rescuers who perished while searching for others trapped in a remote section of the mine. Six more bodies were recovered Friday morning, while 31 people remain missing. Authorities now put the presumed death toll at 51.
Tsivilyov said finding other survivors at this point was highly unlikely.
Rescuers were forced to halt their search for survivors after Thursday’s methane gas explosion and fire because of a buildup of methane and carbon monoxide gas.
A total 239 people were rescued from the mine; 63 of them so far have sought medical treatment, according to Kemerovo officials.
The accident appears to be the deadliest at a Russian mine since 2010, when two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of that incident, authorities assessed conditions at the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them potentially unsafe. Media reports say the Listvyazhnaya mine wasn’t among them; however, in 2004 a methane explosion in the mine killed 13 people.
Russia’s top independent news site, Meduza, reported that this year authorities suspended operations in certain sections of the mine nine times and fined the mine about $53,000 for safety violations.
Law enforcement officials also said Friday that miners had complained about the high level of methane in the mine.
Regional officials have declared three days of mourning, and Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into potential safety violations. The director of the mine and two senior managers were detained.
A separate criminal investigation was launched Friday into allegations that state officials who inspected the mine earlier this month were negligent.
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