MOSCOW – Russian authorities on Friday released the names of 51 people presumed dead after a devastating methane explosion in a coal mine in Siberia, believed to be the deadliest since 2010.
The list with names of 46 miners and five rescuers was published online by the government of the Kemerovo region in southwestern Siberia, where the mine is located. Authorities had initially reported 52 possible fatalities, but search teams on Friday found a survivor in what officials described as a “miracle.”
A total of 285 miners were in the Listvyazhnaya mine at the time of explosion on Thursday morning that quickly filled the mine with toxic smoke. A total 239 people were rescued shortly after the blast, and more than 60 sought medical assistance for an assortment of injuries.
Officials on Thursday confirmed 14 fatalities — 11 miners and three rescuers who perished while searching for others trapped in a remote section of the mine. Rescuers were forced to halt several hours into their search because of a buildup of methane and carbon monoxide gas.
Rescuer Alexander Zakovryashin was pulled out of the rubble Friday morning still conscious. He was hospitalized with moderate carbon monoxide poisoning, according to emergency officials.
“I can consider it a miracle,” acting Emergency Minister Alexander Chupriyan said.
Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov admitted on Friday morning that finding other survivors was highly unlikely.
It was the deadliest mine accident in Russia since 2010, when two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same Kemerovo region.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them potentially unsafe. Media reports say the Listvyazhnaya mine wasn't among them, however in 2004 a methane explosion in the mine killed 13 people.
Russia's top independent news site, Meduza, reported that this year authorities suspended the work of certain sections of the mine nine times and fined the mine more than 4 million rubles (roughly $53,000) for safety violations.
Law enforcement officials also said Friday that miners had complained about the high level of methane in the mine.
Regional officials have declared three days of mourning while Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into potential safety violations. The director of the mine and two senior managers were detained.
A separate criminal probe was launched Friday into allegations that state officials who inspected the mine earlier this month were negligent.