The death toll from a Russian coal mine fire has soared to 52 according to reports from the country’s media. Originally 11 people were confirmed to have died in the accident which occurred early on Thursday 25 November. Coal dust within one of the ventilation shafts caught fire and filled the mine with smoke as 285 people worked inside.
An operation was launched to find survivors but has ended in tragedy as one of the rescue teams has lost touch with the surface with at least three rescuers confirmed dead. The local media reports suggest the toll is higher.
The majority of the 285 people working when the Russian coal mine fire broke out managed to escape, with 49 of those going to hospital with injuries and smoke poisoning. Four are in critical condition. It was thought 35 miners remained unaccounted for in the Listvyazhnaya mine, based in the Kemerovo region some 3,500km from Moscow.
Russian state news agency Tass reported that the death toll stood at 52, with an emergency service source telling them “no one was left alive”. Russia’s privately-owned news agency Interfax quoted a source saying the oxygen supply of some of the search party had run out. The search for survivors has been paused due to fears that methane trapped in the mine could cause an explosion. The rescue work will continue “as soon as the gas concentration decreases to a safe level”. A methane explosion at the same mine killed 13 in 2004.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped “(they) will be able to save as many people as possible”, describing the loss of life as “a great tragedy”.
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