Coal dust exploded in the ventilation system of the coal mine; at the time of the accident, there were 285 miners in the mine, and 11 miners were found dead. Photo by TASS/EPA-EFE
Nov. 25 (UPI) — The death toll from a fire and explosion in a Russian coal mine Thursday rose to more than 50 people as authorities opened a criminal probe into the incident.
The death count from the Listvyazhnaya mine explosion in a region of southwestern Siberia reached 52 people, including six members of rescue crews, a local official from the Belovsky urban district told Russian news agency Interfax.
The victims suffocated from carbon monoxide, the official said. The regional prosecutor has begun an inquiry on whether labor and industrial safety laws were followed while a government investigative arm has launched a criminal case, the agency reported.
There were no survivors from the accident and most of the victims’ bodies remain in the mine, TASS reported. They will be recovered once temperatures and methane concentrations stabilize.
Earlier it was reported that three rescuers who went missing at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine were found dead.
Forty-three miners have been hospitalized with four of them listed in serious condition.
Reports of fire and an explosion in the mine’s airway reached Russia’s Federal Service for Environmental Technological and Nuclear Supervision at around 9 a.m. local time.
The fire broke out at a depth of 820 feet and was caused by coal dust that caught fire in the airway. More than 40 people were poisoned by combustion products. Rescue operations are halted due to the threat of methane explosion.
At least 285 miners were inside when the fire erupted, authorities said.