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Search at stricken Siberian mine

Rescuers at stricken mine in Kemerovo
Mines in Siberia's Kuzbass coal area have suffered from underfunding

Attempts to rescue three Russian coal miners trapped underground are continuing, after an explosion killed 107 people at a Siberian pit on Monday.

One more body was recovered late on Tuesday at the Ulyanovskaya mine, and officials said the search for the three still missing was proving difficult.

Some 93 people were rescued from the mine, devastated by a methane blast.

Virtually the whole of the mine's management died in the explosion. A UK engineer was also among the dead.

Rescuers described a scene of utter devastation, with collapsed and flooded mineshafts and bodies ripped apart.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow says it is Russia's worst mining disaster for a generation.

It occurred at 1030 (0730 GMT) on Monday, at a depth of about 270m (885 feet).

Russian mines suffered from the loss of state subsidies after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

However, the mine in question was only built a few years ago and had just had a new safety system installed.

The mine is run by Yuzhkuzbassugol, an affiliate of Russian coal and steel firm Evraz Group SA. It lies in the Kuzbass coal area in Kemerovo region, nearly 3,000km (1,850 miles) east of Moscow.

Obstacles

At a temporary morgue on the edge of the forest, distraught relatives gathered in the freezing cold to identify the bodies.

The governor of Kemerovo province, Aman Tuleyev, said 20 members of the mine's management team were among the dead, including the facility's chief engineer and chief mechanic.

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"Today we were to launch at this mine an English system to ensure the secure mine work underground," he said.

Mr Tuleyev's spokesman Sergei Cheremnov said the search was "very difficult" as there was "bad ventilation, flooding and a lot of destruction".

Officials said rescuers were working by hand, and divers had been sent into flooded parts.

Rescuers also reported smoke, pockets of gas and collapsed roofs.

There were thought to be about 200 miners working in the mine when the methane exploded.

"There was a bang and smoke then the rescuers came," survivor Alexei Loboda told Russian TV.

"We switched on our safety kits and started going to the surface. Five of us came out. First they helped me to walk then it was all normal and I came back to my senses."

Modern mine

Many of Russia's mines have poor safety standards and have not been updated since the fall of communism.

A methane blast at a Kemerovo coal mine killed 21 miners in 2005.

But the Ulyanovskaya mine was opened only four-and-a-half years ago and Governor Tuleyev said the mine had been fitted with modern equipment.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu was sent to the area by President Vladimir Putin to oversee the rescue operation.

Mr Putin has declared Wednesday a day of mourning for victims of the mine disaster, as well as of Tuesday's fire at an old people's home in the southern Krasnodar region and Saturday's plane crash in Samara, central Russia.



video and audio news
Emergency workers dealing with the mine accident



SEE ALSO
Russia's mine safety woes
20 Mar 07 |  Europe
Russian mine explosion kills 13
28 Oct 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Russia
11 Mar 07 |  Country profiles

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