Five arrested over Russian coal mine fire as death toll rises to 52

Russian mine explosion death toll rose to 52 (Reuters / Kirill Kukhmar Getty)

Police have arrested two state security inspectors on suspicion of criminal negligence following one of Russia’s worst mining disasters.

A gas leak in a Siberian coal mine killed at least 52 people on Thursday, including six rescuers sent to rescue dozens of men.

The regional investigation committee said detained inspectors issued a safety certificate for the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region in November but failed to verify the facility.

Three other people, including the mine manager and his deputy, were arrested Thursday evening.

Authorities said the inspectors would be remanded in custody and charged shortly.

Miners suffocated when a ventilation shaft filled with gas, officials said.

State television said prosecutors believed there had been a methane explosion.

Investigators and rescuers arrive at Listvyazhnaya coal in the Kemerovo region (Getty)
Flowers at a workers’ memorial (Getty)

The dead included 11 minors already confirmed killed, 35 who had been reported missing and the six rescuers.

Rescue workers, who were forced to halt their rescue operations the day before due to the risk of an explosion, brought the bodies of three miners and three rescuers to the surface, the region’s governor said.

Four people, including a rescuer, were in intensive care and receiving treatment, the TASS news agency said, citing medics.

A total of 50 people were hospitalized, the statement said.

Dozens of people have been treated in hospital, at least some of them for smoke inhalation.

Four were in critical condition.

Some 285 people were inside the mine when smoke spread through the ventilation duct, the emergency ministry said.

Authorities said 239 reached the surface.

Rescuer Alexander Zakovryashin, injured during search and rescue operation (Alamy Live News)

President Vladimir Putin has spoken to the governor and emergency officials, and the Kremlin has said it has ordered the emergency minister to visit the region to help.

The coal-producing region of Kemerovo, about 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow, has suffered fatal mining accidents for years.

Listvyazhnaya mine is part of SDS-Holding, owned by the Union of Siberian Private Enterprises.

In 2007, the region was the scene 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.

Kemerovo has declared three days of mourning.

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