Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

Rescuers have found a survivor in a Siberian coal mine, where dozens of miners are believed to have died after a devastating methane explosion, a top Russian officially announced Friday.

Sergei Tsivilyov, governor of the Kemerovo region where the mine is located, said on the Telegram messaging app that the survivor was found in the Listvyazhnaya mine in southwestern Siberia and “he is being taken to hospital”.

Acting Emergency Secretary Alexander Chupriyan said the man was found in my was a rescuer who had been presumed dead.
Rescuers are preparing to work on a fire site in a coal mine near the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 3,000 kilometers east of Moscow.
Rescuers are preparing to work on a fire site in a coal mine near the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 3,000 kilometers east of Moscow. ((Governor of the Kemerovo region via AP))

The state-run Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies had on Thursday quoted emergency officials as saying there was no chance of finding more survivors, setting the death toll at 52 on Thursday night. Saving a survivor Friday morning brings it down to 51.

Authorities had confirmed 14 killed Thursday – 11 miners were found dead and three rescuers later killed while searching for others trapped in a remote part of the mine. Six more bodies were found Friday morning and 31 people are still missing.

Governor Tsivilyov said it is highly unlikely to find other survivors at this time.

A few hours after a methane gas explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic fumes on Thursday, rescuers were forced to halt the search due to an accumulation of methane and carbon monoxide from the fire.

Rescuers walk out of the Siberian city of Kemerovo at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine
Rescuers at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine out of the Siberian city of Kemerovo. ((Governor of the Kemerovo region via AP))

A total of 239 people were rescued from the mine; 63 of them have sought medical help since Friday morning, according to Kemerovo officials.

Russia’s deputy prosecutor, Dmitry Demeshin, told reporters that the fire was most likely caused by a methane explosion caused by a spark.

‘By crawling, I felt them grab me’

The surviving miners described their shock after reaching the surface.

“Impact. Air. Dust. And then we smelled gas and just started going out as many as we could,” one of the rescued miners, Sergey Golubin, said in TV comments.

“We were not even aware of what was happening in the beginning and we took some gasoline in.”

Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov, on the right, visits a wounded miner after the accident at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine
Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov, on the right, visits a wounded miner after the accident at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine. ((Governor of the Kemerovo region via AP))

Another miner, Rustam Chebelkov, recalled the dramatic moment he was rescued with his comrades when chaos engulfed the mine.

“I crawled, and then I felt them grab me,” he said.

“I reached out to them, they could not see me, visibility was poor. They grabbed me and pulled me out, if not for them, we would be dead.”

Explosions of methane released from coal mines during mining are rare, but they cause the most deaths in the coal mining industry.

Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov, left, visits an injured miner after the accident at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine
Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov, on the left, visits a wounded miner after the accident at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine. ((Governor of the Kemerovo region via AP))

The Interfax news agency reported that miners have oxygen supplies that usually last for six hours and can only be stretched for a few more hours.

Russia’s investigative committee has launched a criminal investigation into the fire over breaches of security regulations that led to deaths. It said the mine director and two senior executives were detained.

President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the dead and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to the wounded.

Rescuers and officials are attending a post-accident meeting at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine
Rescuers and officials are attending a post-accident meeting at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine. ((Governor of the Kemerovo region via AP))

It appears to be the deadliest mining accident in Russia since 2010, in which 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 wake of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34 percent, potentially unsafe.

Regional officials declared three days of mourning. Russia’s investigative committee has launched a criminal investigation into the fire over breaches of security regulations that led to deaths. It said the mine director and two senior executives were detained.

Ambulances and fire trucks are parked near the Listvyazhnaya coal mine out of the Siberian city of Kemerovo
Ambulances and fire trucks are parked near the Listvyazhnaya coal mine out of the Siberian city of Kemerovo. ((Governor of the Kemerovo region via AP))

Another criminal investigation was launched Friday into the alleged negligence of government officials who inspected the mine earlier this month.

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