A fire at a coal mine in Siberia has killed 11 people and injured more than 40, with dozens of others remaining trapped, authorities said.
Efforts to rescue those trapped in the mine in the Russia region were halted on Thursday afternoon because of an explosion threat, and rescuers were rushed out of the mine, administrators told the Interfax news agency.
The blaze broke out in the Kemerovo region in south-western Siberia. Russia’s state Tass news agency cited an unnamed emergency official saying that coal dust caught fire, and smoke quickly filled the Listvyazhnaya mine through the ventilation system.
A total of 285 people were in the mine at the time, Kemerovo governor Sergei Tsivilyov said on his page on the messaging app Telegram. He said 35 miners remained trapped underground, and their exact location was unknown.
He added that 49 people with injuries had sought medical assistance. He had earlier reported 60 injured people.
Earlier on Thursday, Russia’s acting minister for emergency situations, Alexander Chupriyan, said 44 miners had been admitted to hospital with injuries.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into the fire on charges of violating safety regulations that led to deaths.
President Vladimir Putin extended his condolences to the families of the killed miners and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to those who were injured.
On Thursday afternoon he sat down for talks with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, during which Mr Vucic offered condolences to the families of the victims.
Mr Putin noted that the situation at the mine, “unfortunately, is not getting easier”.
“There is a danger to the life of the rescuers. Let’s hope that (they) will manage to save as many people as possible,” he said.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia’s far north. Afterwards, authorities analysed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34%, potentially unsafe.
The Listvyazhnaya mine was not among them at the time, according to media reports.
The latest inspection of the mine took place on November 19, Interfax reported, citing officials from Rostekhnadzor, Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog.
According to Tass, the regional branch of Rostekhnadzor also inspected the mine in April and registered 139 violations, including breaching fire safety regulations.