MOSCOW (AP) – Rescue teams have found a survivor at a Siberian coal mine where dozens of miners are presumed dead after a devastating methane explosion, a senior regional official said on Friday.
The governor of the Kemerovo region, Sergei Tsivilyov, told the Telegram messaging app that the survivor was found in the Listvyazhnaya mine in southwest Siberia and “he is taken to hospital” .
Acting Emergency Minister Alexander Chupriyan identified the survivor as rescuer Alexander Zakovryashin who was presumed dead. “I can take this as a miracle,” Chupriyan said.
Zakovryashin was conscious when rescuers reached him and was hospitalized with moderate carbon monoxide poisoning, emergency officials said.
Authorities on Thursday confirmed 14 deaths – 11 miners and three rescuers who perished while searching for other people trapped in a remote section of the mine. Six other bodies were found on Friday morning, while 31 people are still missing. Authorities now estimate the number of suspected deaths at 51.
Governor Tsivilyov said it was highly unlikely to find any further survivors at this point.
Rescuers were forced to stop their search for survivors after the methane gas explosion and fire on Thursday due to a build-up of methane and carbon monoxide. A total of 239 people were rescued from the mine; 63 of them have so far sought medical treatment, according to officials in Kemerovo.
It appears to be the deadliest mine accident in Russia since 2010, when two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same Kemerovo region.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions at a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the aftermath of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 potentially dangerous. The media report that the Listvyazhnaya mine was not one of them, but in 2004 a methane explosion in the mine killed 13 people.
Russia’s largest independent news site Meduza reported that this year authorities have suspended work on parts of the mine nine times and fined it more than 4 million rubles (about 53 $ 000) for security breach.
Law enforcement officials also said on Friday that miners complained about the high level of methane in the mine.
Regional officials have decreed three days of mourning while the Russian commission of inquiry has launched a criminal investigation into possible security breaches. The mine manager and two senior managers were arrested.
A separate criminal investigation was launched on Friday into allegations that state officials who inspected the mine earlier this month were negligent.
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