Russian Coal-mine tragedy - death toll passes 50

According to the officials, there are hardly any chances of finding more survivors after the worst mining accident in Russia in more than 10 years.

The BBC reports around 285 people were in the mine when the accident occurred; of those, the majority escaped, 49 were injured and four were believed to be in a critical condition.

Fifty-one people have been killed in Russia's worst mining disaster in a decade, prompting three days of mourning in Siberia's Kemerovo region. Among the dead were five rescue workers, although a sixth was found alive and taken to hospital in a serious condition.

The miners were killed on Thursday when coal dust caught fire, and smoke quickly filled the Listvyazhnaya mine through the ventilation system, Russia’s TASS news agency said, citing an unnamed emergency official.

Flags flew at half-mast outside official buildings in Kemerovo and grief-stricken relatives of the victims wept outside the snow-covered mine site as the period of mourning was declared on Friday. Relatives said warnings about growing levels of methane gas in the mine had gone unheeded. They said there had been a fire at the mine only 10 days earlier and miners had been frustrated that more was not done to improve safety.

“I can’t carry on,” one woman said, as families gathered in sub-zero temperatures.

A former worker at the mine, Denis Timokhin, told independent TV channel Dozhd safety violations were frequent at the facility, accusing management of forcing miners to work despite high methane concentrations.

“If you don’t want to work, quit,” he said. “No safety protocols, all sensors are plugged with bags.”

The regional inspector for mining was detained and questioned by Russian investigative officers on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin said he had spoken with the governor and emergency officials, and the Kremlin said he had ordered the emergencies minister to fly to the region to help.

Kemerovo declared three days of mourning.

In 2007, the region was the site of the worst mining accident since the collapse of the Soviet Union when an explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine claimed the lives of more than 100 people. In 2010, explosions at the region's Raspadskaya mine killed more than 90 people.

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