MOSCOW (AP) – Eleven people were killed and more than 60 injured Thursday after a fire at a coal mine in Russia, according to authorities. Dozens of workers were still trapped.
Efforts to rescue people trapped in the mine were halted Thursday afternoon due to the risk of an explosion, and rescuers left the mine quickly, mine managers told the Interfax news agency.
The accident occurred in the Kemerovo region of southwestern Siberia. Coal dust caught fire and smoke quickly filled the Litsvyazhnaya mine through the ventilation system, said Russia’s state agency Tass, citing an unidentified emergency manager.
At the time of the incident, there were 285 people in the mine, of whom 239 were evacuated and another 46 were still trapped underground, Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov said on his channel on the Telegram messaging platform.
In a later message, Tsivilyov said that a total of 60 injured had requested medical assistance, and 38 were hospitalized.
Acting Russian Minister for Emergencies Alexander Chupriyan had previously reported 44 miners hospitalized with injuries. At first it was not possible to clarify the discrepancy in figures.
The Investigative Committee of Russia launched a criminal investigation into the fire for possible breaches of safety regulations resulting in death.
President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased miners and ordered the government to provide all necessary assistance to the injured, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions at a coal mine in the remote north of the country. Following the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of all 58 coal mines in Russia and declared 20 of them, or 34%, as possibly unsafe.
The Litsvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region was not on that list, according to media reports.
The latest inspection of the mine was made on December 19, according to Interfax, which cited members of Rostekhnadzor, Russia’s state ecology and technology oversight agency. The report did not give details about the result of the inspection.