30 dead in Russia mine blast

2010-05-10 13:31

Moscow - At least 30 people died and 60 remained unaccounted for following two weekend explosions at one of Russia's largest coal mines, Russian news agencies reported the emergencies ministry as saying on Monday.

The death toll from the methane blasts at the Raspadskaya mine, 3 000km east of Moscow, rose from 12 overnight as more bodies were found underground, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying.

"Thirty people are dead and the fate of 60 other people in the mine remains unclear," Shoigu said, as quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency.

Seventeen rescuers who were caught in the second of two explosions were found overnight, he said, adding that time was running out to rescue miners from two flooded areas of the mine.

48 hours

"We have 48 hours," he said.

Rescue teams re-entered the mine late on Sunday after a build-up of methane halted the search for most of the day.

A criminal investigation has been opened into possible safety violations, the prosecutor general's office said.

The mine in the city of Mezhdurechensk had reserves of some 450 million tons of coal and produced 8.9 million tons in 2007, according to the Raspadskaya company. It says the pit is the largest underground mine in Russia.

Raspadskaya, Russia's largest standalone coking coal producer, is part-owned by steel-and-mining firm Evraz Group.

Mine explosions and other industrial accidents have prompted repeated calls from Russia's leaders for improvements to creaking infrastructure and stricter adherence to safety rules. Kremlin critics say little has been done.