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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Russian miners rescued
Rescued miner
The miners were trapped 800 metres below the surface
Thirty-three of the 46 men trapped since Thursday in a flooded mine in southern Russia have been rescued.

Those brought to the surface have been taken to hospital - one was reported in serious condition.

Thirteen miners are still unaccounted for. Earlier, officials said all 46 had been located.

The men were trapped when the Zapadnaya mine in Novoshakhtinsk flooded on Thursday evening, cutting off power and stranding the miners 800 metres (2,600 feet) below.

'Knocked off our feet'

The miners were working at the coalface when icy water from an underground lake burst through a mine shaft and flooded the pit.

Mine director Vasily Avdeyev is reported to be among the trapped men.

Rescuers initially managed to bring up 15 miners but then made no further progress for the next 24 hours.

"We barely got out of there," Igor Kulikov, one of the miners who managed to escape, told Russian television.

"All of a sudden, we were up to our necks in water," said another, Konstantin Doroshenko. "It knocked you off your feet."

Relatives rushed to the mine headquarters after news of the disaster broke to scan the list of names of those trapped underneath

Some sat quietly, their faces tense. Others shed tears.

Accidents are notoriously frequent in coal mines in Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine.

Apart from the natural hazards associated with the work, miners complain of deteriorating safety conditions.

A similar incident at Zapadnaya in February was blamed on a lack of maintenance work at the mine, which had led to the creation of the underground lake.

There were no casualties on that occasion.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford
"One by one, the miners are helped to the surface"

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