Siberia: Dozens missing after deadly Russian mine accident

Image source, AFP

Three rescuers sent to find survivors after a Siberian mine filled with smoke have died, bringing the disaster's death toll to 14.

The accident happened when coal dust in a ventilation shaft caught alight, according to the Russian state news agency Tass.

About 285 people were in the mine at the time, with the majority escaping.

Rescue teams went in to find the 35 still trapped. The rescuers' bodies were found hours later on Thursday.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said one of the rescue teams at the Listvyazhnaya mine, in the Kemerovo region some 3,500km (2,175 miles) east of Moscow, had lost contact with those on the surface.

Officials confirmed to Tass that three bodies had been found, and Russia's privately-owned Interfax news agency quoted a source saying their oxygen had run out. It is unclear if any more rescuers are missing.

Eleven miners are known to have died, and 49 people have been taken to hospital with injuries, officials said. Some of the injured have smoke poisoning, and four are said to be in a critical condition.

The search for more survivors was paused earlier on Thursday amid fears that dangerously high levels of methane in the mine could cause an explosion.

Local governor Sergei Tsivilev said in a video on Telegram that work would resume "as soon as the gas concentration decreases to a safe level".

Mr Tsivilev earlier said they had lost contact with the missing miners as the underground communications system was not working.

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".

This is not the first accident at the mine, according to local media, with a methane gas explosion killing 13 in 2004. More widely, accidents in Russian mines are not uncommon.

In 2016, authorities assessed the safety of the country's 58 coal mines and declared 34% of them potentially unsafe. The list did not include the Listvyazhnaya mine at the time, Russian reports say.

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