A gas explosion at a Siberian coal mine on Thursday killed at least 52 people – including six rescue workers – in the country’s worst mining disaster in a decade, Russian officials say.
Russia’s investigators say the crash happened in the early hours of the morning after a ventilation shaft began filling with gas at the Listviajnaya mine in Russia’s Kemerovo region, about 2,200 miles east of Moscow.
Rescue operations at the mine, which sank to a depth of 1,300 feet, continued throughout the day despite the rising death toll. The miners, who were initially thought to be missing, were gradually transferred to the list of the dead until late Thursday, when authorities said rescue operations had to be halted due to high concentrations of methane in the mine.
Russian news agency Interfax has said it has no hope of finding anyone else alive.
Some of the dead were workers who had suffocated. Others may be stuck.
The country’s deputy attorney general told Interfax that a methane explosion could make it impossible for miners to get out.
Mikhail Pozdnyakov, a miner, told Channel One, Russia’s national television network, that he heard a “loud noise” and “could not see anything after that.”
“Everything is covered in dust and ashes. Anyone can fall to the ground,” said Mr. Postnikov said. “Seven people went out with me, and five were left there.”
Coal mining accidents have been common in Russia since Soviet times, with some rules being enforced from time to time.
This year alone, several government agencies have inspected the Listviajnaya mine dozens of times. They found hundreds of violations, fined and ordered the suspension of work, Russia’s technical monitoring agency said in a statement.
But the mine was open for business on Thursday, and by the end of the day, dozens had died.
The commission said it had launched a criminal investigation into the disaster and had already arrested the director of the mine, his deputy and the head of the mining department.
The Kemerovo region accounts for more than half of the coal produced in Russia. It has also been the site of some of the worst mining accidents.
In 2007, an explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine killed more than 100 people. In 2010, more than 90 people were killed in two explosions at the Raskatskaya mine. In 2004, 13 miners died in the same mine that exploded on Thursday.