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Sergei Tsivilyov, governor of the Kemerovo region where the mine is located, said on the messaging app Telegram that the survivor was found in the Listvyazhnaya mine in southwestern Siberia, and “he is being taken to the hospital”.
The state Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies on Thursday had cited emergency officials as saying that there was no chance of finding any more survivors, and put the death toll at 52 on Thursday evening. Rescuing a survivor on Friday morning brings that down to 51.
The authorities had confirmed 14 fatalities on Thursday — 11 miners were found dead and three rescuers died later while searching for others who were trapped at a remote section of the mine. Six more bodies were recovered on Friday morning, and 31 people remain missing.
Governor Tsivilyov said finding other survivors at this point was highly unlikely.
Hours after a methane gas explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic fumes on Thursday, rescuers were forced to halt the search because of a buildup of methane and carbon monoxide gas from the fire.
A total of 239 people were rescued from the mine; 63 of them, as of Friday morning, have sought medical assistance, according to Kemerovo officials.
Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Dmitry Demeshin told reporters the fire most likely resulted from a methane explosion caused by a spark.
‘Crawling, then I felt them grab me’
The miners who survived described their shock after reaching the surface.
“Impact. Air. Dust. And then, we smelled gas and just started walking out, as many as we could,” one of the rescued miners, Sergey Golubin, said in televised remarks.
“We didn’t even realise what happened at first and took some gas in.”
Another miner, Rustam Chebelkov, recalled the dramatic moment he was rescued along with his comrades as chaos engulfed the mine.
“I was crawling and then I felt them grabbing me,” he said.
“I reached my arms out to them, they couldn’t see me, the visibility was bad. They grabbed me and pulled me out, if not for them, we’d be dead.”
Explosions of methane released from coal beds during mining are rare but they cause the most fatalities in the coal mining industry.
The Interfax news agency reported that miners have oxygen supplies normally lasting for six hours that could only be stretched for a few more hours.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into the fire over violations of safety regulations that led to deaths. It said the mine director and two senior managers were detained.
President Vladimir Putin extended his condolences to the families of the dead and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to those injured.
Deadliest in a decade
It appears to be the deadliest mine accident in Russia since 2010, when two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same Kemerovo region.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of the incident, authorities analysed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34 per cent, potentially unsafe.
Regional officials declared three days of mourning. Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into the fire over violations of safety regulations that led to deaths. It said the mine director and two senior managers were detained.
One more criminal probe was launched Friday into the alleged negligence of state officials that inspected the mine earlier this month.