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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 12:39 GMT
Russia buries mine blast victims
Funerals in Novokuznetsk
Many relatives are still unable to come to terms with their loss
Mass funerals are taking place in Russia, following a gas explosion at a mine in Siberia that killed at least 108 people on Monday.

More than 50 miners were buried in the city of Novokuznetsk and nearby Osinniki in the Kemerovo region.

The methane blast at the Ulyanovskaya mine was the worst mining accident in Russia's modern history, officials say.

There are fears that the death toll will rise further as the search for two missing miners continues.

Relatives and friends of the victims arrived at Novokuznetsk's cemetery in a long convoy of buses and cars.

Many cried as the mass funerals began.

Some of those who gathered in freezing conditions blamed inadequate safety regulations at profit-hungry mines for the deaths.

"We have to make money, we are forced to bend the rules," Igor, who was burying his brother and asked not be further identified, told the AFP news agency.

Utter devastation

More than 200 people were underground when the blast occurred at a depth of about 270m (885 feet) on Monday morning.

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Virtually the whole of the mine's management died, and a British engineer was also among the dead.

Ninety-three people were rescued.

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

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

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

The accident happened just two days after a plane crash killed six in central Russia and a day before a fire at an old people's home left 63 dead in the south of the country.

On Wednesday, Russia held a day of mourning for the victims of the three disasters.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Mass funerals take place in the city of Novokuznetsk



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