At least 52 people have been killed in a Siberian coal mine fire that erupted from a gas leak, Russia’s TASS news agency reported Thursday.
There were about 285 people at the Listvyazhnaya mine in Belvo, Siberia, when a fire broke out Thursday, filling the mine with smoke, the Associated Press reports. Most were evacuated, but dozens were trapped underground in a remote section of the mine.
The rescue operation has been suspended due to high levels of methane and carbon monoxide, according to the Interfax news agency. The death toll includes six rescue workers.
The Russian Investigative Committee in the Kemerovo region has said it will carry out a criminal probe into potential violations of industrial safety requirements at hazardous production sites.
Prosecutors believe a methane explosion was the cause of the fire, which then filled a ventilation shaft, Reuters reports, citing state television. The director of the listvyazhnaya mine and two senior managers were arrested on suspicion of violating industrial safety rules, according to Reuters and the AP.
Kemerova Governor Sergei Tsivilyov has declared three days of mourning for the victims, according to the TASS news agency, meaning the plagues will be flown at half mast, and all local entertainment events and television shows will be stopped.
Dozens of miners are still being treated at a hospital Thursday evening. Reuters characterized the incident as one of Russia’s worst mining disasters since the Soviet Union era.
The owner of the coal mine, holding company SDS, part of the private Siberian Business Union, said in a statement to TASS that it will pay the families of the killed 2 million rubles, or about $ 26,780, with additional compensation on a case -By- case basis.