Russia mourns over 51 people killed in mine disaster, police make arrests

  • Five rescuers among 51 dead – governor
  • Says methane explosion probable cause of disaster
  • The widow says the husband complained about methane levels

MOSCOW, NOVEMBER 26 (Reuters) – Siberian police on Friday arrested two security inspectors suspected of criminal negligence as Russia’s coal mining area mourned the deaths of 51 people in one of its worst Soviet-era mining disasters.

Regional Governor Sergei Tsivilyov said a methane explosion was the likely cause of Thursday’s accident at the mine near the city of Belovo. The dead included five rescuers who were dispatched to bring out dozens of men sitting deep underground, he said. Read more

“There was an explosion at this mine 18 years ago and 13 people died. The whole village went crazy. Imagine how they will bury 46 (miners),” said Inna Piyalkina, whose 55-year-old husband was among the dead.

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The commission of inquiry, a body investigating serious crimes, said it would target and remand in custody two security inspectors who issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility.

Its move followed the arrest late Thursday of three leaders of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, on suspicion of violating safety standards. Read more

The local prosecutor’s office said Friday that it was conducting security checks at other mines across the region and had already opened 28 cases of violations found at six companies. It did not name them.

‘SENSORS BEEPER’

The mine, located about 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, is owned by SDS-Ugol, a company that produces 27 million tons of coal annually and is part of the privately owned Siberian Business Union. The SBU did not respond to a request for comment.

A stop sign is seen at the entrance to the mining territory following an accident at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine in the Kemerovo region, Russia, 26 November 2021. REUTERS / Alexander Patrin

Piyalkina said her husband, who had worked in the mine for 33 years, had recently complained about safety issues.

“Methane was over the limit. My husband came home from work every day and said it would not end well. It was so over the limit that all sensors beeped,” she told reporters after visiting the plant Friday.

She said there had been a fire in part of the mine on the night between November 14 and 15.

“No action was taken. Here is the result. It has only been 10 days and they are all in there,” she said.

In a rare slice of good news, one of the rescuers who had been presumed dead was suddenly found alive Friday and driven to the hospital, where he was placed in intensive care, emergency services said. Read more

Emergency workers, who had been forced to halt their rescue work Thursday because of the risk of an explosion, brought the bodies of three miners and three rescuers to the surface Friday, the regional governor said.

Four other people, including another rescue worker, were on intensive care, the TASS news agency quoted doctors as saying. A total of 50 people were in the hospital, it said.

The accident was Russia’s worst since 2010, when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

In 2007, the region, informally known as Kuzbass, was the site of the worst mining accident since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when an explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine killed more than 100 people.

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Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Anastasia Lyrchikova, Maria Kiselyova, Gleb Stolyarov; editing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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