Russia Coal Mine Explosion Kills 18 Miners

Katie Stallard, Moscow Correspondent
Russia Coal Mine Explosion Kills 18 Miners

Seventeen miners have died and another is missing, presumed dead, after an explosion at a coal mine in northern Russia.

Rescue teams are attempting to reach the men at the Vorkutinskaya mine in Vorkuta, Komi region, around 1,160 miles northeast of Moscow.

A ministry spokesperson told Sky News a methane explosion was reported at the mine at 10.28am local time this morning.

The interior ministry for the Komi region put the toll at 18 dead.

A total of 259 miners were working underground at the time, with 23 in the shaft where the explosion took place at a depth of 800 metres (0.5 miles).

Five of those in the shaft were rescued - two received treatment at the scene and three were hospitalised.

Two of the hospitalised men were in intensive care with multiple fractures and burns, the regional health ministry said, adding that one of them was "in extremely grave" condition.

The Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has asked for a report on the situation and urged help for the miners' families.

The mine belongs to a division of Severstal, one of Russia's largest steel producers.

President Vladimir Putin ordered Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov to personally go to the mine to oversee the rescue operation.

"The head of state expressed deep condolences to the relatives and loved ones of the killed miners," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russian state TV said the families of those killed in the explosion would receive two million rubles, around £42,000, in compensation.

The mine in the northern city of Vorkuta has been working since 1973. 

According to its website, it won a corporate award in 2011 for "worthy working conditions - the basis for respect in the work force".

Once the powerhouse of the Soviet economy, Russia's coal mines have a poor safety record, with frequent accidents reported despite recent efforts to improve conditions.

Last month four workers died in an explosion at a mine in western Siberia.

In 2010, 68 people were killed in two methane blasts at Russia's biggest underground coal mine, the Raspadskaya mine in Siberia.

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