Mining Company's Claim Disputed

NOVOKUZNETSK, Kemerovo Region -- Yuzhkuzbassugol announced Wednesday that the last two bodies had been recovered from its Ulyanovskaya mine, bringing the death toll in a March 19 explosion to 110, but workers in the rescue service and the local morgue disputed the company's claim.

In a news release, Yuzhkuzbassugol said the two bodies, recovered Tuesday evening, had been identified and would be buried on Thursday.

But a rescue worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the company's statement was incorrect. "At around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, while we were pumping water from the shaft, three body fragments emerged. No miners' bodies were found," he said.

Of the 110 people who never made it out of the Ulyanovskaya mine after the blast, the bodies of 108 have been recovered. Of those, 102 have been identified and buried. The remains of six unidentified bodies are being examined in the local morgue, and two bodies are still in the mine.

The effort to find the last two bodies has been hampered by water, mud and obstructions. The body fragments discovered on Tuesday were small and bore no traces of clothing, making them difficult to identify, the rescue worker said.

A worker at the Novokuznetsk morgue, who declined to be identified, said the body parts had not yet been identified.

"We don't know to whom the recovered fragments belong, the six unidentified bodies in the morgue or the two bodies that are still missing," the morgue worker said.

"Genetic analysis began in early April, when material was sent to Moscow. But we'll have to wait until the last two miners are found to get the full picture," he said.