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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kemerovo Mine Blast Kills at Least 11

Itar-TassRescue workers carrying the body of a miner out of the Ziminka mine in Prokopyevsk on Tuesday, a day after the methane blast.
Four miners were trapped in a Siberian coal mine for a second day Tuesday after a ceiling collapsed following what officials said was probably a methane blast, killing at least 11 workers.

The ceiling fell in a shaft in the Ziminka mine in the Kemerovo region mining town of Prokopyevsk on Monday. Two miners were rescued and hospitalized, said Marina Ryklina, spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Three miners were able to crawl out of the collapsed area on their own, and the bodies of 11 who died had been recovered by Tuesday. One miner was unaccounted for, local television stations reported. A preliminary investigation indicated the collapse was caused by a methane explosion, Deputy Kemerovo Governor Sergei Cheremnov said.

He said the blast was likely caused by a spark from a short circuit, possibly in a powerful drilling device being used in the mine. Ventilation from the shaft had been blocked intermittently, suggesting methane might have accumulated in the area.

Rescue efforts continued through the night as miners' relatives gathered near the mine shaft awaiting news. There were conflicting reports about how many miners were underground at the time of the collapse and about the condition of those still trapped. Cheremnov said rescuers had to work carefully to avoid another collapse.

Anatoly Dyupin, the region's top fuel and energy sector official, said rescuers were drilling a horizontal corridor to reach the trapped miners, and were discussing the possibility of drilling vertically as well, Interfax reported. He said the miners were in a 100 square-meter chamber and had sufficient air.

Itar-Tass reported later Tuesday that rescuers had to abandon the original corridor they were drilling for fear of another collapse and were taking a more roundabout route to reach the miners.

Prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the explosion Tuesday, looking into allegations of safety lapses and negligence, Interfax reported.

President Vladimir Putin instructed Deputy Prime Minister Galina Karelova, who is in charge of welfare issues, to provide help to the mine explosion victims, Interfax said.

Accidents are common in the coal industry, and miners stage frequent protests over wage delays and declining safety standards. As of May, 33 miners had been killed on the job in Russia this year, according to the Independent Coal Miners' Union. It said 93 miners were killed in 2001 and 68 last year.

The Ziminka mine is one of the oldest in the Kemerovo coal basin, working since 1934.