Medics and rescuers were still searching for survivors after a pair of blasts ripped through a mining complex in Russian eastern Siberia, killing at least 37 people and leaving a huge plume of smoke spreading over the affected mine.
Eighteen people were injured, 11 seriously, when the explosions at the Eastern Metallurgical Plant (EMPL) in the village of Yegorovka sent huge plumes of grey smoke into the sky on Saturday.
The six-level mine, which was formally named the Fair Nary branch and has been in operation since 1995, is believed to have suffered two blasts, one of which occurred in the mail room of the dangerous mining tunnel below ground.
Mining can be difficult work. A 2005 explosion killed dozens at another Eastern Metallurgical Plant in the town of Chervonoparty which is located in the Krasnoyarsk region in western Siberia.
Russian mining is also high risk and rescue crews are often given a grim task.
Mine rescue workers who tend to a miner in Kerzhiyek during the accident. Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/TASS
The death toll from the blast at EMPL at Yegorovka early on Saturday was expected to rise, with officials having declared a state of emergency in the mine.
“Fire still burns in the third, sixth and seventh floors. According to the latest information, not even the corridors of the tunnel have been checked,” rescue work expert Viktor Lukashevich told Komsomolskaya Pravda on Sunday.
Valentina Kobylenko, the director of the EMPL, said 14 miners had been rescued from the rubble after being trapped underground by the blasts, but said the number of survivors was still unclear.
“The explosion was caused by a tunnel caving in,” Kobylenko told Interfax. “We don’t know how many miners were working there.”