Up to 30 killed in Siberia mine

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The Independent Online

A suspected methane blast ripped through a coal mine in Siberia early yesterday, killing up to 30 miners and trapping at least 20 others more than 700 metres underground.

A suspected methane blast ripped through a coal mine in Siberia early yesterday, killing up to 30 miners and trapping at least 20 others more than 700 metres underground.

Thirteen miners were rescued or made it to the surface on their own, said Valery Korchagin, an emergency department spokesman in the Kemerovo region.

Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleyev, who was overseeing the rescue operation, said that the shortest path to the blast site was blocked by what appeared to be impassable rubble, and that rescuers were attempting to reach the area by a longer route from an adjacent mine. Their efforts were also being hampered because the mine shaft was reported to be filled with poisonous gases.

One television channel reported that voices could be heard from the rubble, but state television reported that there was no communication with the trapped men.

Rescuers stopped work occasionally to allow them to hear any signs of life, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Accidents are common in the Russian coal industry, and miners stage frequent protests over wage delays and declining safety standards. Local prosecutors immediately opened a criminal investigation into negligence of safety standards, state television reported.

According to ITAR-Tass, more than 600 miners work at the Taizhina mine in the town of Osinniki, which is about 3,000km east of Moscow in western Siberia's coal-rich Kuzbass area. It is a new shaft, opened in 1998, on long-established coal workings, but television pictures showed dilapidated buildings at the site.

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