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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 September 2006, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Russian gold mine fire kills 21
A rescuer at the site of the Darasun mine in Siberia

At least 21 miners are now known to have died after a fire in a gold mine in Russia which broke out on Thursday, according to local officials.

Five bodies were brought out of the mine late on Saturday. The fate of another four miners is still unknown.

The blaze broke out between 85m and 130m (230-430ft) below ground in the Darasun mine in Chita, eastern Siberia.

A total of 39 miners are known to have survived, of whom eight escaped after two days inside the mine.

They were greeted by tearful relatives before being rushed to hospital to check for hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning.

One described how they managed to stay alive.

"Nobody panicked, nobody quarrelled," Yevgeny Slivka told Russian TV from his hospital bed.

"We shared one cigarette among the eight of us, we had two pieces of lard that we split into small equal pieces among all, we spread the bread evenly, too - nobody yelled at one each other ... everybody managed to stay together."

Shares fall

The cause of the fire is not yet clear, though one report said it was set off by welding work.

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Of the 64 miners underground when the fire took hold on Thursday, 31 crawled out within hours.

Rescue teams arrived on Saturday at the mine, which is about 4,700km (2,900 miles) east of Moscow, Russian emergency officials said.

Another three miners emerged unaided on Saturday and helped rescuers to locate five more colleagues.

Highland Gold Mining, a Jersey-registered company which owns the mine, saw its shares fall more than 7% during trading on the London Stock Exchange on Friday morning.

Russia's gold mines have a better safety record than the coal-mining industry, where many accidents have happened since the early 1990s.


SEE ALSO
Russian mine explosion kills 13
28 Oct 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Russia
05 Sep 06 |  Country profiles

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