Russian coal mine blast kills 18 people, heightening concerns over country's ageing infrastructure and poor safety standards

Blast took place at a depth of about 800 metres at the Vorkutinsky mine, in the city of Vorkuta

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The Independent Online

A deadly blast at a coal mine in northern Russia has killed up to 18 people, the latest tragedy to hit the country’s coal sector, which is plagued by ageing infrastructure and poor safety standards.

The blast took place shortly after half past ten in the morning at a depth of about 800 metres at the Vorkutinsky mine, in the city of Vorkuta. The area is a grim part of Northern Russia that was initially developed as part of the Gulag system of labour camps.

The bodies of ten miners were brought to the surface in the immediate aftermath of the blast, while eight men were said to be trapped in the mine. The Interior Ministry later said that they had also died. There had been over 200 miners underground at the time of the explosion, but the majority of them managed to escape to the surface unharmed or were saved by rescuers.

The mine is owned by the Russian steel giant Severstal, whose shares fell more than two percent on news of the blast. Mining accidents in both Russia and Ukraine, where Soviet infrastructure is often in great need of modernisation, are frequent. In 2007 an explosion in the Russian region of Kemerovo killed 110 people, while another in the same region killed over 60 in 2010.

President Vladimir Putin dispatched Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov to the scene to oversee the rescue attempt, and compensation of 2m roubles (£40,000) was promised to families of each of the victims.