Coal mine blast kills 18 in Russia, 9 still trapped
Updated: 2013-02-12 03:13
MOSCOW - At least 18 people died and three remained in grave conditions after a coal mine blast in Russia's northern Komi republic, emergency authorities said Monday.
The explosion occurred at 10:28 Moscow time (0628 GMT) at Vorkutinskaya mine which belongs to the Vorkutaugol private company.
A total of 259 people were working in the mine when the blast happened, 250 of them, including the bodies of the killed workers, have been lifted within an hour through the mine's air shaft. Nine workers remained trapped underground,the Emergency Situations Ministry said.
Mining experts warned more explosions could happen in the mine due to high level of methane in the coal roads. The rescuers had to postpone further search in the mine tunnels to conduct methane draining-out.
Preliminary investigation of the Russian technical safety watchdog Rostekhnadzor revealed the emergency in the mine was caused by a gas-dynamic explosion of methane 800 meters underground.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to go to Vorkuta for supervision of the relief operations, take urgent measures to clarify the fate of the missed and wounded miners and organize help for the families of the victims.
Puchkov said the families of the killed miners would receive some 2 million rubles (about 67,000 US dollars) each in compensation. According to the Russian law, this is a maximum payment limit of an insurance company's liability.
The Vorkutaugol's underwriter told reporters that the company's insurance policy of 10 million rubles could be insufficient to cover the damage in full.
The victim's relatives would have to demand deficient amount in courts, Andrei Yuriev, president of the National Insurers Union, told reporters.
The Emergency Situations Ministry dispatched two planes to Vorkuta with special equipment for the rescue crew. The group of disaster relief psychologists and doctors were also onboard the planes.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also ordered his deputy Arkady Dvorkovich to undertake steps to support the victims' families.
The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under the article of "Violation of the safety rules during mining, construction and other works" of the Russian criminal law, the Committee's spokesman Vladimir Markin told reporters.
Komi republic's authorities promised to complete the investigation no later than by March 1.
According to the Vorkutaugol's official website, safety of the workers is the company's priority. Rostekhnadzor inspected the mine in 2012 and has found no safety violations on Vorkutinskaya at that time.
The mine has been working since 1973 and has coal reserves for 50 years of production ahead. It annual production capacity amounts to 1.8 million tons of coal.