Siberia coal mine fire: 11 killed and dozens left trapped after blaze

25 November 2021, 12:04 | Updated: 25 November 2021, 12:49

At least 11 people have been killed, more than 40 injured and dozens left trapped after a fire at a coal mine in Russia's Siberia.

Attempts to rescue those trapped in the mine were halted on Thursday afternoon due to an explosion threat, and rescuers were rushed out, according to the site's administrators.

The tragedy happened in the Kemerovo region of southwestern Siberia.

Russia's state Tass news agency reported, citing an unnamed emergency official, that the inferno started when coal dust caught fire before smoke quickly filled the Litsvyazhnaya mine through the ventilation system.

Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov said a total of 285 people were in the mine at the time of the incident and that 239 had been evacuated but 46 others were still trapped underground.

He said in a separate statement that a total of 49 people with injuries had sought medical assistance.

Russia's acting minister for emergency situations, Alexander Chupriyan, said 44 miners had been taken to hospital with injuries. The difference in injury tolls reported by different officials could not be immediately reconciled.

Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into the blaze on charges of violating safety regulations that led to deaths.

However, Russian television channel NTV reported the fire came just a day after an unscheduled inspection at the site found no violations.

President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the families of the killed miners and ordered the government to offer all the necessary assistance to those who were injured, his spokesman said.

In 2016, 36 miners died in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia's far north. Following the incident, the authorities analysed the safety of the country's 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34%, potentially unsafe.

The Litsvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region was not among them at the time, according to media reports.