MOSCOW – Rescue workers scrambled to save dozens of people trapped in Russia’s largest underground coal mine after two explosions killed at least 30 people and injured dozens more, officials said. Among the 60 still trapped early today were rescue workers who had entered the Siberian mine after the first blast.
A high level of methane gas after Sunday’s second, more powerful blast raised fears of further explosions and prevented more rescuers from going into the mine for the rest of the day.
Only early today was the first rescue team sent down to try to bring out five miners whose location had been established, said Valery Korchagin, a spokesman for the Emergency Ministry. It was not clear, however, how many miners were still alive, if any, he said.
The second explosion destroyed the main air shaft and all of the mine’s above-ground structures, the governor of the Siberian region of Kemerovo told Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a meeting with emergency officials, according to a government transcript.
More than 500 emergency workers from around the country struggled throughout the day to ventilate the mine and rebuild mine shafts so the search for those trapped could resume, Korchagin said by telephone from Kemerovo, about 2,000 miles east of Moscow.
By late Sunday, it was still too dangerous to enter the mine because of high levels of methane gas, said Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu, who flew to the scene from Moscow to take charge of the operation.