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Russian deputy PM: Severnaya mine blast could not be prevented

Russia’s industrial safety watchdog earlier said that the accident at the Severnaya coalmine in north Russia that claimed the lives of at least 36 people is considered as a natural disaster

GORKI, February 29. /TASS/. There was no gradual increase in the methane concentration level in the Severnaya mine (in Russia’s north-eastern Komi republic) before the accident, and it was almost impossible to prevent the accident using the sensing equipment, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Monday at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

"At this point, based on the analysis of the data from both Rostekhnadzor [industrial safety watchdog] and the Investigative Committee, it is clear that there was an abrupt outburst, increase in methane concentration, that is, there was no gradual methane concentration increase, sensors did not register anything of the kind, so it was almost impossible to prevent the outburst using sensing devices," he said, adding that it was a preliminary assessment of the incident.

The further actions at the mine "were taken according to the rules," the deputy prime minister said.

Dvorkovich said that 36 people, including 31 miners and 5 mine rescuers, are considered dead at the moment. The rescue operation continued until the night from Saturday to Sunday — until there was hope that the remaining 26 miners could be saved. The rescue efforts have now been suspended, Dvorkovich said.

"The work is underway to close the mine shafts to reduce the level of oxygen and the subsequent injection of nitrogen to stop the fire in the mine. After that the decisions about the mine’s future will be taken," the deputy prime minister said.

However, he said, "even given the optimistic scenario, if the mine can be restored, it will take at least several months." Dvorkovich said in this regard that the majority of mine’s employees "will be given jobs at the neighboring or other mines, in any case they will be paid wages."

On Sunday, Russia’s industrial safety watchdog Rostekhnadzor said that the accident at the Severnaya coalmine in north Russia that claimed the lives of at least 36 people is considered as a natural disaster. "According to the materials that have been obtained, the accident is a natural disaster of mining and geological nature," head of the Rostekhnadzor regional branch in Pechora Alexander Goncharenko said at a meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. The meeting discussed the situation at the Severnaya coalmine hit by a series of blasts.

A methane burst at the Severnaya coalmine in Vorkuta on February 25 triggered two blasts and rock collapse followed by a fire. There were 111 coalminers underground at the time of the explosion at a depth of 780 meters, with 81 of them recovered to the surface. Four miners died and another nine were injured in the accident. The fate of 26 miners remained unknown and there has been no contact with them since the time of the blasts.

A third blast hit the mine early on Sunday during a search and rescue operation, killing six persons, including 5 rescuers. Another five persons were injured.