MOSCOW (AP) – Rescuers have found a survivor in a Siberian coal mine where dozens of miners are believed to have died after a devastating methane explosion, a local top official announced on Friday.
Sergei Tsivilyov, governor of the Kemerovo region where the mine is located, said on the Telegram messaging app that the survivor was found in the Listvyazhnaya mine in southwestern Siberia, and “he is being taken to hospital.”
Acting Emergency Response Minister Alexander Chupriyan said the man found in the mine was a rescuer who had been presumed dead.
Authorities had confirmed 14 killed Thursday – 11 miners were found dead and three rescuers later killed while searching for others trapped in a remote part of the mine. Six more bodies were found Friday morning and 31 people are still missing.
Governor Tsivilyov said it was highly unlikely to find other survivors at this time.
A few hours after a methane gas explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic fumes on Thursday, rescuers were forced to halt the search due to an accumulation of methane and carbon monoxide from the fire. A total of 239 people were rescued from the mine; 63 of them have sought medical help since Friday morning, according to Kemerovo officials.
The state-run Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies had on Thursday quoted emergency officials as saying there was no chance of finding more survivors, setting the death toll at 52 on Thursday night. Saving a survivor Friday morning brings it down to 51.
It appears to be the deadliest mining accident in Russia since 2010, in which two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same Kemerovo region.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions at a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34%, potentially unsafe.
Regional officials declared three days of mourning. Russia’s investigative committee has launched a criminal investigation into the fire over breaches of security regulations that led to deaths. It said the mine director and two senior executives were detained.
Another criminal investigation was launched Friday into the alleged negligence of government officials who inspected the mine earlier this month.
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