MOSCOW, February 26. /TASS/. There were two explosions, which led to rock collapse and caused fire in the Severnaya mine in Vorkuta, a coal-mining town in Russia’s Komi Republic situated just north of the Arctic Circle. This is hindering the rescue operation, technical director of Vorkutaugol Coal Company Igor Paikin said on Friday.
"According to preliminary information, an explosion occurred in the mine in the afternoon on Thursday. The evacuation of people was organized immediately. About an hour later there was a second explosion," he said at a meeting held by the Russian emergencies minister at the Severnaya mine. According to Paikin, there were several rock falls in the epicenter of the explosions.
"They (explosions) caused a fire. It is impossible to extinguish it by conventional methods yet. We will consider the option of temporary isolation of the conflagration area," the company’s technical director said. According to him, the passage to the emergency mine face is hindered due to blockages. He said that the mine is now filled with thick smoke. However, the mine’s ventilation has been normal, Paikin said.
According to previous TASS reports, a rock burst occurred in the Severnaya mine owned by Vorkutaugol at the depth of 780 meters at 14:22, Moscow time on Thursday. There were 110 people in the mine at the burst moment and tentatively about eight people - at the emergency site. A total of 80 miners were evacuated during the first hours after the accident, eight of them sought medical attention and four of them were taken to hospital.
Two miners were killed, their bodies have been lifted to the surface. The fate of 28 miners remains unknown. A total of 364 people and 70 units of equipment are involved in the rescue operation.
Criminal proceedings have been instituted over the emergency under Article 216, part 3 of the Russian Criminal Code (violation of safety rules in mining, construction and other works that resulted in the death of two and more persons through negligence).
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry has opened a response headquarters and a telephone hotline.