The number of miners and rescuers killed in a fire at a coal mine in Siberia has risen to 52, according to Russian media.
The fire broke out at the Kemerovo mine in northern Russia on Thursday, local authorities said.
Eleven miners were found dead while three rescuers also died later as they searched for other trapped underground. The Russian Emergency Ministry first said in a declaration that a total of 239 people were brought to the surface, while 38 people were still missing and feared dead.
In the meantime, the rescue mission had to be brought to a complete halt due to increased levels of carbon monoxide fumes from the fire, and the build-up of methane posed a risk of explosion, threatening further casualties. among the rescuers.
According to Russian state news agencies Tass, RIA and Interfax, all cited local officials who said at this point there was no chance of finding any survivors.
A total of 285 people were in the Listvyazhnaya mine at the time of the incident, Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov said on Telegram.
Tsivilyov said in another Telegram article that 43 injured people requested medical assistance. Regional authorities have declared three days of mourning for the victims.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, but Russian media said the coal dust caught fire and the smoke quickly filled the Litsvyazhnaya mine through the ventilation system.
However, Russian Deputy Attorney General Dmitri Demeshin told reporters that the fire was most likely the result of a methane explosion caused by a spark.
The Russian commission of inquiry has opened a criminal investigation into alleged security breaches.
President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the families of the victims and ordered the government to provide all necessary assistance to the injured, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
After 36 miners were killed in a series of explosions at a coal mine in 2016, Russian authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them potentially dangerous.
Accidents in Russian mines are often blamed on poor safety regulations or outdated Soviet equipment.
The deadliest accident in recent years left 91 dead and more than 100 injured in May 2010 in the Raspadskaya mine, also located in the Kemerovo region.