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Coal mine fire leaves at least 11 dead, 60 injured in Russia’s Kemerovo region. Dozens of miners remain trapped underground.

Source: Meduza
Russian Investigative Commitee

A fire at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine in Siberia’s Kemerovo region killed at least 11 miners and injured 60 more on Thursday, November 25. As many as 46 miners remain trapped underground. Rescue workers were carrying out evacuations, but were forced to suspend their search due to the threat of a gas explosion. In addition, one rescue team has gone missing inside the coal mine. Located in the town of Belovo, the Listvyazhnaya mine is part of SDS Ugol, one of Russia’s largest coal mining enterprises. Investigators have opened a criminal case in connection with the fire, and prosecutors are carrying out checks of the Listvyazhnaya mine and others in the region. The Kemerovo region (also known as Kuzbass) has announced three days of mourning for the dead.

The fire at the Listvyazhanaya coal mine broke out on Thursday morning. Russia’s environmental and technological watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, reported that it received a signal concerning smoke and an alleged explosion at the mine around 9:00 a.m. local time. Coal dust had caught fire in a ventilation shaft, causing smoke to spread throughout the mine, a source in the emergency services told state news agency TASS. “There was no explosion, there’s no damage to the mine,” the source claimed. Similarly, the press release from Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) only mentioned smoke, coming from 250 meters (820 feet) below ground. In total, there were 285 people inside the mine when the blaze erupted; many managed to escape to the surface.

At least 11 people were killed in the fire and dozens more were injured. Media reports of the 11 deaths were confirmed by Kemerovo Regional Governor Sergey Tsivilyov. At least 60 people were injured, 38 of whom were hospitalized. The Listvyazhanaya coal mine has suspended operations. 

More than 40 miners are believed to be trapped inside the mine. According to Governor Tsivilyov, as many as 46 people remain underground (earlier, unconfirmed media reports said between 37–39 people were missing). EMERCOM rescue workers were searching for survivors, but around 5:00 p.m. local time the mine’s management reported that rescue efforts had been suspended due to the threat of a gas explosion. Earlier in the day on Thursday, Tsivilyov said that the mine’s ventilation systems were working, and that “gas contamination [was] minimal.” But in the evening, the mine’s management reported that the ventilation systems were not functioning. 

A team of rescue workers went missing while searching for survivors. According to EMERCOM, the group did not come to the surface at the appointed time. An informed source told Interfax that the missing team included four to five people, who were equipped with oxygen supplies.

Update. Later in the day on Thursday, the Listvyazhanaya coal mine’s management confirmed the deaths of three rescue workers who had been searching for survivors underground. The total death toll from the fire has now reached 14 people. At least 35 miners and three other rescue workers are considered missing. The rescue effort has now been suspended until Friday morning.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case on charges of violating industrial safety requirements for hazardous production facilities. In addition, prosecutors are carrying out checks on compliance with labor protection and industrial safety safety laws at the Listvyazhanaya coal mine and other mines in the Kemerovo region. In addition, EMERCOM opened a hotline and acting Emergency Situations Minister Alexander Chupriyan traveled to Kuzbass.

The Kemerovo region announced three days of mourning for the deceased miners. This will take place from November 26–28, Governor Sergey Tsivilyov announced on Telegram. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that President Vladimir Putin expressed deep condolences to the families of the deceased. “We hope that we will be able to save those who are [still] down there, underground,” Peskov added. Putin also instructed for assistance to be organized for the victims of the fire. 

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart