1 day left to find trapped people in Siberian coal mine blasts: minister

20:41, May 12, 2010      

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Rescuers have already reached the furthest area of the Raspadskaya coal mine in west Siberian of Russia, where any of the missing miners could remain alive, said Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday.

Shoigu told reporters on the site that one day may be left to rescue the miners, if any of them survived after five days of the double blasts that hit Russia's largest coal mine near the city of Mezhdurechensk in west Siberia.

So far 60 people have been killed and 30 more were still missing. Many of the victims were rescue workers, who went into shafts and were hit by the second explosion.

The concentrations of volatile methane in areas of the mine were as much as three times the amount considered safe, local media reported.

To date full ventilation cannot be launched for the mine, as officials are concerned that it could cause new blasts. Rescuers had to search hundreds of kilometers of underground mining tunnels with oxygen masks.

A government committee for rescue and assistance to victims of the mine disaster, which was headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, has been established by the order of President Dmitry Medvedev.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew to the site to inspect the rescue operations and visit victims at a local hospital. He also demanded thorough probe into the blasts at a government meeting the same day.

Founded in 1973, Raspadskaya was one of Russia's leading coking coal producers, with total coal reserves estimated at 782 million tons.

The deadliest methane explosion in Russian coal mine occurred three years ago, when 110 miners were killed.



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