Two explosions tore through Russia's largest underground coal mine, killing 11 workers and injuring 41 others, an emergency services ministry official said today. Another 84 people remained in the mine, including rescue workers. Ministry spokeswoman Elena Chernova said on state news TV channel Rossiya-24 that rescue work had been suspended after the second blast, which happened early this morning; it was not clear when it might resume.
The first blast, believed to have been caused by methane, hit the Raspadskaya mine in western Siberia just before midnight and the second about 3.5 hours later. There were 359 workers below ground at the time of the first explosion, Ms Chernova said. The second blast destroyed the main air shaft and caused more injuries, and there is a risk of more explosions, said Aman Tuleyev, the governor of the west Siberian region of Kemerovo, according to the state news agency ITAR-Tass.
"The rescue work will continue when the atmosphere in the mine is restored, but to conduct rescue work now means to send people to die," Mr Tuleyev was quoted as saying. The mine, the Raspadskaya, produces about 8 million tons of coal a year, according to the company's website. The Kemerovo region is about 3,000 kilometres east of Moscow. There was no immediate information on what set off the blast. Mine explosions and other industrial accidents are common in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics, and are often blamed on inadequate implementation of safety precautions by companies or by workers themselves.
In December, nine people were killed in an explosion at an iron-roe mine in the Ural Mountains region that was blamed on faulty transportation of explosives. * AP