BLASTS AT RUSSIAN COAL MINE LEAVE 11 DEAD
At least 11 miners have been killed and 83 others are trapped following two explosions at Russia's largest underground coal mine.
Twenty of those still in the Raspadskaya mine, in western Siberia, are rescuers sent in following the first blast, officials say.
Emergency services officials say at least 41 miners have been injured.
Many of Russia's mines have poor safety records, and there have been calls for standards to be tightened.
More than 300 were underground when the first explosion happened just before midnight on Saturday and most were brought safely to the surface. Reports blamed the blast on methane gas.
Officials said 11 miners died in the first explosion.
The second explosion came about three hours later and contact with a team of 20 rescuers was lost.
Rescue efforts were then suspended and it was not clear when they might resume, an emergency services ministry spokeswoman said.
The governor of Siberia's western Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev, has taken charge of the rescue operation.
He said the second blast had destroyed the main air shaft, causing more injuries, and there was a risk of more explosions.
“The rescue work will continue when the atmosphere in the mine is restored, but to conduct rescue work now means to send people to their death,” he said.
Emergency teams are now trying to pump air into the underground shafts.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the rescue operation should resume as soon as possible.
“To sit around twiddling your thumbs and waiting until the coal mine has been ventilated by itself is wrong. That is why we must do all we possibly can to save people,” he said.
He said they were trying to ventilate the mine as quickly as possible “so that the next phase of the operation, inside the mine, can begin”.
State TV pictures showed that the explosions had been so powerful that buildings on the surface had been badly damaged.
The mine, about 3,500km (1,900 miles) east of Moscow, produces about eight million tons of coal a year, according to its website.
Kemerovo is part of the major coal-producing Kuzbass region.