Russia: Methane blast kills 18 at coal mine

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Moscow, Feb 12: At least 18 miners were killed on Monday in an underground methane gas explosion at a coal pit in northern Russia. About 250 people were present at the pit when the blast occurred, about 800 metres below the surface. Most of them, however, escaped or were rescued, government sources said.

President Vladimir Putin dispatched his emergencies minister to the accident site to oversee the rescue efforts. Ten bodies were reportedly brought out at the Vorkutinskaya mine, owned by Russian steel giant Severstal, in the Komi region, around 1,200 km northeast of Moscow, and efforts were on to recover the rest.

Mine safety standards in today's Russia have improved much than what they were during the days of the erstwhile Soviet Union but yet fatal accidents are frequent in the country's ageing pits. Most accidents have been caused by methane blasts and negligence.

Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov stressed to get a clear picture of what had happened at the site. Sources in the Emergencies Ministry and Severstal said 16 miners were killed while the fate of two others was yet to be known. Three people were admitted to the hospital, it was told.
Russian authorities reportedly announced 2 million roubles in compensation to each victim's family.

An investigation would be carried out to check whether the Vorkutinskaya mine blast was caused by any safety violation. The mine started production in 1973.

Two mine blasts occurred in the coal-mining region of Kemerevo in 2007 and 2010, killing 110 and over 60 people, respectively.

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