Officials: 25 die in Russia mine blast

Updated: 2007-03-19 21:46

MOSCOW - A methane gas explosion ripped through a Siberian coal mine Monday, killing at least 25 miners and sending rescuers scrambling to evacuate more than 100 left underground, government and emergency officials said.

At least five miners were injured in the blast at the Ulyanovskaya mine in the Kemerovo region, Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Alina Avyazova said.

The explosion occurred during the afternoon when 186 workers were underground in the mine, a spokesman for the region Emergency Situations Ministry Valery Korchagin said. He said 88 had been brought safely to the surface, and that rescuers were working to evacuate the rest.

The Kemerovo regional administration's press service said 25 miners were killed.

Rescue workers were in contact with surviving miners underground, Avyazova said. It was not clear whether they were in immediate danger.

The Ulyanovskaya mine is in Novokuznetsk, a sprawling city about 1,850 miles east of Moscow in a coal-rich swath of south-central Siberia known as the Kuzbass. The hardscrabble city is set among hills crowded with active and abandoned coal mines amid a grim industrial landscape.

The mine - operated by Yuzhkuzbassugol, an affiliate of Russian coal and steel company Evraz Group SA - opened in 2002 and produces 3.3 million tons of coal a year, according to the RIA-Novosti news agency.

Accidents are common in the Russian coal industry. A blast at a mine on the outskirts of Novokuznetsk killed 47 workers in 2004 - the deadliest in the region since 1997, when a methane explosion at a mine in the city killed 67.

At least 30 workers died in Russian mining accidents last year, including 25 who perished in a fire at a Siberian gold mine.

In the U.S. last year, 47 workers died in mine accidents.

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