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11 dead, dozens trapped in Siberian coal mine fire, Russian officials say

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A fire at a coal mine in Siberia killed 11 people and injured more than 40 on Thursday, and dozens of people were still trapped, authorities said.

The fire took place in the Kemerovo region in southwestern Siberia. Russia’s state news agency Tass reported, citing an unidentified emergency official, that the coal dust caught fire and smoke quickly filled the Litsvyazhnaya mine through the ventilation system.

A total of 285 people were in the mine at the time of the incident: 239 of them have been evacuated and 46 other miners remain trapped underground, Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov said on his page on the messaging app Telegram. “Forty-three people have been hospitalized with injuries, four of them in serious condition,” Tsivilyov said.

Earlier Thursday, Russia’s acting minister for emergencies Alexander Chupriyan said 44 miners had been hospitalized with injuries. The difference in injury tolls reported by different officials could not be immediately reconciled.

Efforts to rescue the rest are still continuing, hampered by large amounts of smoke.

Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation into the fire on charges of violating safety regulations that caused deaths.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday expressed his condolences to the families of the murdered miners and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to the wounded, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

34% of Russia’s coal mines considered potentially unsafe

In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions at a coal mine in the far north of Russia. Following the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34%, potentially unsafe.

The Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region was not among them at the time, according to media reports.

The latest inspection of the mine was carried out on November 19, Interfax news agency reported, citing officials from Rostekhnadzor, Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog. The report did not provide details on the results of the inspection.

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