52 miners dead in Russian coal mine explosion, 35 still missing

A total of 52 miners are confirmed dead in a recent coal mine blast in the Kharaz Mountains in the Russian Federation, the ministry of labor reports.

Thirty-five miners remain unaccounted for in the Sibneft Zagros 2 Mine in the Ob River mining district of Tomsk Region, where the tragic accident occurred on Sept. 1, the ministry said.

“However, we can emphasize that rescue efforts are continuing, day and night,” it said. “The rescue work is extremely hazardous. The bodies of the dead miners are still inside the pit. The bodies will decompose very quickly and we need to prevent any further degradation of the condition of the mine floor.”

The ministry said 70 miners were in the area at the time of the accident, with 2:11 p.m. local time (4:11 a.m. ET) local time/9:11 a.m. EDT local time. There were 103 miners in the mine when the blast occurred.

While the mining company insists that divers have now entered the collapsed mine, and there is no danger of methane gas levels exploding, if the temperature in the mine shifts to a degree, it could cause a methane explosion.

The official situation report said rescue workers “have formed a calm understanding of the operation’s circumstances,” but that the safety of the workers may be compromised by “a large number of dangers and hazards,” including gas, tunneling and the difficulty of accessing the deepest sections of the mine.

“The investigators are proceeding as if searching for victims of the accident,” the report said.

The loss of life is equivalent to an average of 80 people dying in a week in Russian mining accidents, with 2016 listed as the deadliest year for mining deaths since a mine explosion killed 74 in June, 2013.

The investigation into the cause of the accident will be “conducted under the principle of fair, balanced and objective investigation of every accident. At all times, our independence and impartiality are guaranteed,” the report said.

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