A Russian court has ordered five people to remain in custody for two months pending an investigation into a devastating explosion at a coal mine in Siberia that resulted in dozens of deaths.
- The accident killed at least 51 people, including five rescuers
- The five mining officials are charged with violating industry safety requirements
- The blast appears to be Russia’s deadliest tragedy since 2010
Russian authorities reported 51 deaths after a methane explosion shook the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region of southwestern Siberia on Thursday – 46 miners and five rescuers.
The tragedy appears to be the deadliest in Russia since 2010.
The central district court of the city of Kemerovo decided to imprison the director of the Listvyazhnaya mine, Sergei Makhrakov, his deputy Andrei Molostvov and section leader Sergei Gerasimenok.
They face charges of violating industrial safety requirements for hazardous production facilities that resulted in multiple deaths.
If convicted, they could face up to seven years in prison.
Miners complained about high methane levels
Sergei Vinokurov and Vyacheslav Semykin – two officials from the local branch of Rostekhnadzor, Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog – have also been jailed for two months on charges of negligence leading to two or more deaths punishable by up to seven years in prison. as well.
Law enforcement officials said Friday that miners had complained about the high level of methane in the mine.
Russia’s top independent news site, Meduza, reported that this year the authorities suspended work in certain parts of the mine nine times and issued fines for breaches of security of more than 4 million rubles (74,000 USD).
A total of 285 miners were in the Listvyazhnaya mine on Thursday morning at the time of the explosion, which quickly filled the mine with toxic fumes.
A total of 239 people were rescued shortly after the explosion, and more than 60 sought medical attention for a range of injuries.
Officials said Thursday that 11 miners and three rescuers were killed while searching for others in a remote part of the mine.
Thirty-five miners were still trapped in the mine when rescuers were forced to halt their search several hours into it due to an accumulation of methane and carbon monoxide gas.
Another three rescuers disappeared and had been presumed dead along with the captured miners Thursday perhaps.
Friday morning, however, search teams found a rescuer in the mine who was still alive and conscious. He has suffered shock and carbon monoxide poisoning of moderate severity and is being treated in a hospital.
Officials have described his rescue as a “miracle” and said it was highly unlikely to find other survivors at the time.
Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov on Saturday announced the resumption of the search operation, saying “we have to lift everyone [to the surface]”.
However, he noted that rescue workers should act “cautiously”.
“We have no right to lose another single person,” Tsivilyov wrote on the messaging app Telegram.
Later Saturday, search teams found the bodies of five miners.
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