Toll in Russian mine blasts climbs to 60


Moscow: Four days after twin methane gas explosions tore through a Siberian coal mine, the deaths in the accident have risen to at least 60, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

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Eight more bodies were recovered from the Raspadskaya mine, while the fate of 30 other miners trapped some 500 metres underground remained unknown, a spokesperson for the rescue forces told Interfax.

More than 80 miners were also injured in the weekend accident at the mine in the Kemerovo region. The first explosion occurred at 11.54 p.m. (1654 GMT) Saturday. A second blast followed at 1 a.m., while a rescue operation was underway.

There has been no contact with those trapped since, making it unclear whether they were still alive.

Twenty-three of the victims were buried Wednesday, as officials in the coal-rich region – known as Kuzbass and located some 3,500 km east of Moscow – called for a day of mourning Saturday.

The Russian government has promised compensation ranging from 200,000 to one million rubles ($6,700-33,400) for relatives.

Ventilation in the tunnels where the explosions occurred was not relaunched Wednesday, as previously planned. The airflow had been curtailed after the blasts for safety reasons.

Methane levels in the shaft are now reportedly three times higher than normal, slowing down cleanup operations since the work could only be done while wearing respirators.

Officials have estimated that five million rubles worth of damage was caused by the blasts, which led several buildings to collapse. The mine is anticipated to remain closed for at least eight months.