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Search for missing in Raspadskaya mine accident not stopped

September 28, 2011, 11:40 UTC+3

It is called on the initiative of governor of the Kemerovo region Aman Tuleyev

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KEMEROVO, September 28 (Itar-Tass) — Workers of the Raspadskaya mine in the Kemerovo region almost a year and a half after an accident that killed 90 people, refuse to stop the search for the missing. A meeting will be held here on Wednesday on further emergency operations.

It is called on the initiative of governor of the Kemerovo region Aman Tuleyev. He said earlier that he has been receiving memos warning that moving towards 11 dead miners that are in the emergency section is dangerous because of the threat of new explosions. Tuleyev suggested in this regard “to invite to the mine coal industry experts, scientists of the specialised research institutes, international experts who could give advice, recommendations for the further conduct of the search and emergency work.” He also refused to sign any acts on stopping the search for the dead. “The search must continue. We owe it to the families,” the governor said.

A total of 90 workers of the mine and rescuers of the Novokuznetsk paramilitary mine rescue squad were killed in the mine explosions on May 8 and 9, 2010 and 145 people got injuries, burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. Eleven people are still unaccounted for.

The mine, owned by Russian company Raspadskaya, is the largest underground coal mine in Russia, producing 10 percent of the country’s coking coal. It has a history of accidents and safety problems. In March 2001, another methane explosion killed four miners and injured six. The mine was shut down for two weeks in 2008 due to safety violations and a worker was killed after part of the mine collapsed in January 2010.

The first blast occurred at 20:55 Moscow Summer Time (16:55 UTC) with the second at 01:00 MST (21:00 UTC). The explosions were confirmed by investigators to have been caused by methane gas. A secondary explosion was reported approximately four hours later, with 20 rescue workers now among those missing. The second explosion caused a collapse of the mine’s ventilation shaft, drastically reducing the flow of fresh air into the mine.

Rescue efforts were suspended after the second blast. By 18 May 2010, 66 people were confirmed to have died, at least 99 injured and 24 remained trapped underground. The Russian emergencies minister confirmed that rescue efforts were ongoing, saying “There is always a chance of recovery.” Rescue work resumed late on May 9 after methane levels had dropped below safety limits and, at the peak of the operation, 560 people were involved with aid being sent from other parts of Russia.

Aman Tuleyev has taken charge of the rescue operation. The mine was evacuated after the first explosion and 282 people escaped to the surface. The Russian Energy Ministry has set up a task force to deal with the aftermath of the incident while President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a report from his emergencies minister and a junior energy minister, Vladimir Azbukin visited the scene. Medvedev ordered Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to head a government commission dealing with the aftermath of the incident.

The mine company agreed to pay 1 million Russian roubles in compensation (approximately US$33,000) to the families of the dead with additional assistance from the state. A government spokesman released a statement in which he said “families of the deceased, children of miners will get all the necessary assistance. The government has already discussed the issue with the mine's owners.”

The event occurred the day before Victory Day and officials in the nearby town of Mezhdurechensk, where many of the mine’s employees live, cancelled planned celebrations for the following day. A criminal investigation was launched into the incident by Russian authorities and post-mortem examinations were carried out on the bodies of the miners to establish a precise cause of death. The tragedy provoked civil unrest in nearby Mezhdurechensk. Coal miners rallied and occasionally clashed with police, 28 were arrested. Governor Tuleyev met with the protesters and agreed with some of their demands.

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