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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 17:55 GMT
Russian miners emerge from ordeal
Miner led to safety
The freed miners were led to the surface by rescuers
Eleven of the 13 men trapped in a flooded mine in southern Russia for six days have been brought to the surface.

The 11 were found alive on Wednesday - another was confirmed dead and a 13th is still reported as missing.

Rescuers dug though more than 50 metres (164 feet) of rock to reach the survivors, who were taken up in a lift.

In a separate incident on Wednesday, a powerful explosion hit a mine in eastern Siberia, killing at least five miners.

Group of miners emerging

Initial reports said methane had exploded inside the mine at the town of Partizansk where 64 people were working at a depth of 750 metres.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would discuss the accidents with his prime minister.

"Unfortunately, these sort of events are becoming systematic in character. We have to carefully look into this," he said.

Nine of the 11 who emerged from the Zapadnaya coal mine in Rostov Province walked unaided, wrapped in blankets and coated in coal dust.

Some even managed smiles and waves for their relatives.

"The guys looked fine for people who have been trapped in a mine for six days. They came out themselves," said one rescuer, Alexander Smetalin.

"They were found in the northern part of the mine. They were lying there all together."

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow says these were the dramatic scenes few people had dared still to hope for.

Two others were carried out on stretchers. One is said to be in a serious condition.

One of the miners, Vasily Karlov, said that conditions had become increasingly desperate in the last hours before the rescue.

Relative of one of the miners

"We felt that the water level was rising and there was little oxygen and people were not feeling well," he said.

The mine's director Vasily Avdeyev - who was on his first day in the job when the accident happened - was among the last 11 to be rescued from the mine.

"When we saw the rescuers, it was like the appearance of Christ before the people," he said. "We had nothing to eat. I delivered a speech saying that a 20-day fast has not ever hurt anyone and it is good for the health."

The six-day wait also took its toll on relatives waiting outside the mine for news.

Nikolai Lazaryev, an uncle of one of the rescued men, said: "We could not live - we just existed."

Rescuers had been digging to reach the men since Thursday.

Writing on the wall

They were found on Wednesday morning through an evacuation tunnel from a neighbouring mine - dubbed the "tunnel of hope".

The search teams broke through the final metres of rock to discover a note, scratched on the wall by the miners.

Timeline of events
Thursday 23 October: Water leaks from an underground lake into a shaft where miners are working. At least 15 escape but 46 are trapped
Friday 24 October: Rescuers begin tunnelling from two neighbouring mines and try to stop water flow
Saturday 25 October: Emotional scenes as rescuers bring up 33 miners, but 13 are still unaccounted for
Monday 27 October: Rescuers continue to dig a "tunnel of hope" towards the remaining men but are hampered by rising water, a gas leak and uncertainty over the men's position
Tuesday 28 October: Rescuers drill a small hole into the shaft where men are thought to be but no signs of life are reported
Wednesday 29 October: Majority of the remaining miners found by rescuers

It was a message to rescuers that the men were heading for cover towards the central mine shaft, where 11 were found alive.

A total of 46 miners were trapped in Thursday's accident, which cut off power and stranded the miners 800 metres (2,600 feet) underground.

Thirty-three men were brought out on Saturday to emotional scenes.

Accidents are 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 Steve Rosenberg
"They were rescued just in time from their underground tomb"

Mystery and joy as miners emerge
29 Oct 03  |  Europe
Blast hits second Russian mine
29 Oct 03  |  Europe
In pictures: Russian mine drama
27 Oct 03  |  Photo Gallery
Rescuers reach flooded mine
28 Oct 03  |  Europe

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