By DASHA LITVINOVA for the Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) — Rescue crews have found a survivor in a Siberian coal mine where dozens of miners are presumed dead after a devastating methane explosion, a senior regional official said on Friday.
Kemerovo region Governor Sergei Tsivilyov 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.”
Acting Emergency Minister Alexander Chupriyan identified the survivor as rescuer Alexander Zakovryashin who had been presumed dead. “I can consider it a miracle,” Chupriyan said.
Zakovryashin was conscious when rescuers reached him and has been hospitalized with moderate carbon monoxide poisoning, according to emergency officials.
Authorities on Thursday confirmed 14 fatalities — 11 miners and three rescuers who perished while searching for others trapped in a remote section of the mine. Six more bodies were recovered on Friday morning, while 31 people remain missing. Authorities now put the presumed death toll to 51.
Gov. Tsivilyov said finding other survivors at this point was highly unlikely.
Rescuers were for forced to halt their search for survivors following Thursday’s methane gas explosion and fire because of a buildup of methane and carbon monoxide gas. A total 239 people were rescued from the mine; 63 of them so far have sought medical treatment, according to Kemerovo officials.
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 analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them potentially unsafe. Media reports say the Listvyazhnaya mine wasn’t among them, however in 2004 a methane explosion in the mine killed 13 people.
Russia’s top independent news site, Meduza, reported that this year authorities suspended the work of certain sections of the mine nine times and fined the mine more than 4 million rubles (roughly $53,000) for safety violations.
Law enforcement officials also said Friday that miners had complained about the high level of methane in the mine.
Regional officials have declared three days of mourning while Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into potential safety violations. The director of the mine and two senior managers were detained.
A separate criminal probe was launched Friday into allegations that state officials who inspected the mine earlier this month were negligent.