Mine Blast in Siberia Takes High Toll

An explosion at a coal mine in Siberia kills more than 100 people, making it one of Russia's deadliest mining accidents in a decade. Rescue workers are searching for survivors, even as investigators try to determine what caused the blast.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Two terrible events in Russia. More than 60 people were killed when a fire swept through a nursing home in Southern Russia. And an explosion in a coal mine in Siberia has killed more than 100. It was Russia's deadliest mining accident in more than a decade. Today, one coal miner was pulled out alive, as rescue workers continue the search for survivors.

NPR's Gregory Feifer reports from Moscow.

GREGORY FEIFER: It took firefighters nearly an hour to get to the nursing home located in a remote village on the Sea of Azov. Officials blame staff for ignoring fire alarms and failing to evacuate occupants in time. The fire took place less than a day after an explosion rocked a coal mine in the Siberian region of Kemerovo. Local emergency official Valery Korchagin said in televised comments that the explosion was probably caused by trapped methane gas.

Mr. VALERY KORCHAGIN (Spokesman, Russian Emergency Situations Ministry): (Russian spoken)

FEIFER: But there's also the possibility it was caused by the collection of coal dust, he said. It's difficult to say at this point.

Thick smoke and roof collapses along mine shafts stretching three miles long hampered the rescue work. Russian television pictures showed at least one miner lying motionless on a stretcher. The Ulyanovskaya coal mine is located in Russia's Kuzbass coal basin. Methane explosions are not unusual in Russian mines, many of which are under-funded and often lack adequate safety equipment. A methane blast in a nearby mine in 2004 killed 47 miners. But officials say the Ulyanovskaya mine where the blast took place yesterday was only opened in 2002, and is one of Russia's most modern mines.

Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow.

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