MOSCOW-Russian news reports said a devastating fire swept through a coal mine in Siberia on Thursday, killing 52 miners and rescuers about 250 meters (820 feet) underground.
A few hours after the methane explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic smoke, rescuers found 14 bodies, but were then forced to stop searching for 38 other bodies due to the accumulation of methane and the high concentration of carbon monoxide smoke from the fire.
Tass and RIA Novosti quoted emergency officials as saying that there was no chance to find any survivors.
Interfax News Agency quoted regional government representatives as saying that 52 people died from the fire on Thursday, saying they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A fire broke out in the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region of southwestern Siberia. Smoke quickly filled the mine through the ventilation system. A total of 285 people were in the mine. Rescuers led 239 miners to the surface, 49 of them were injured and 11 bodies were found.
News reports said that later that day, six rescuers died while searching for other people trapped in remote areas of the mine.
District officials announced three days of condolences.
Russian Deputy Attorney General Dmitry Demeshin told reporters that the fire was probably caused by a methane explosion caused by sparks.
Methane explosions released from coal seams during mining are rare, but they cause the most deaths in the coal mining industry.
Interfax news agency reported that the miners’ oxygen supply can usually last for six hours, but can only be extended for a few more hours.
The Russian Commission of Inquiry has launched a criminal investigation into the fire that resulted in death due to violation of safety regulations. It said the mine manager and two senior managers were detained.
President Putin expressed condolences to the families of the deceased and ordered the government to provide all necessary assistance to the injured.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in the far north of Russia. After the incident, the authorities analyzed the safety of 58 coal mines in the country and declared that 20 (34%) of them may be unsafe.
According to media reports, the Listvyazhnaya mine was not among them at the time.
Rostekhnadzor, Russia’s national technology and ecological regulatory agency, inspected the mine in April and recorded 139 violations, including violations of fire safety regulations.
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