Russian reports now say 52 dead in Siberian coal mine fire

Russia Coal Mine Fire
Rescuers walk at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine out of the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 1,900 miles east of Moscow, Russia, Thursday.
Governor of Kemerovo region press office photo via AP

Russian news agencies say a fire at a Siberian coal mine has killed 52 miners and rescuers.

Officials previously said that rescuers found 14 bodies and the search for 38 people missing was halted for safety reasons, because of a buildup of explosive methane gas and a high concentration of toxic fumes from the fire.

The state Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies cited emergency officials as saying that there was no chance of finding any survivors.

The Interfax news agency cited a representative of the regional administration who also put the death toll from Thursday's fire at 52.

Rescue teams were rushed out of the mine for safety reasons because of a buildup of explosive methane gas and a high concentration of toxic fumes from the fire.

Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Dmitry Demeshin told reporters that the fire most likely resulted from a methane explosion caused by a spark.

Explosions of methane released from coal beds during mining are rare but they cause the most fatalities in the coal mining industry.

The Interfax news agency reported that miners have oxygen supplies normally lasting for six hours that could be stretched for a few more hours but would have expired by late Thursday.

Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into the fire over violations of safety regulations that led to deaths. It said the mine director and two senior managers were detained.

President Vladimir Putin extended his condolences to the families of the dead and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to those injured.

In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia's far north. In the wake of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country's 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34 percent, potentially unsafe.

The Listvyazhnaya mine wasn't among them at the time, according to media reports.

Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, inspected the mine in April and registered 139 violations, including breaching fire safety regulations.

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