Criminal Probe Launched into Fatal Siberian Coalmine Accident

MOSCOW, January 20 (RIA Novosti) – Investigators have launched a criminal probe into a fatal accident at a coalmine in southwestern Siberia’s Kemerovo Region that killed four and trapped another four miners underground, the regional Investigative Committee said on Sunday.

A total of 77 miners were working underground at mine No. 7 in the Prokopyevsky district when smoke started spreading through the tunnels at around 02.15 a.m. Moscow time [22:15 GMT on Saturday].

Sixty-nine people have been successfully evacuated. Rescuers have found the bodies of four miners while four other people remain trapped underground.

The criminal probe has been launched on the charges of the violation of safety rules during mining works, which has caused the deaths of two and more persons due to negligence. Persons guilty of the breach of safety rules may face a prison term of up to seven years under Russia’s Criminal Code.

In the meantime, the regional administration said the rescuers had found the location of the four miners trapped underground.

“Mine No. 7 is a modern enterprise with up-to-date equipment, surveillance and control systems. That is why, specialists have determined without any difficulty the location of the remaining four miners with an accuracy of up to a centimeter,” the regional administration’s press office said, adding, however, the miners’ fate remained unknown.

High concentration of methane remains the major cause of deadly incidents at Russian coal mines.

Two powerful methane blasts at the Raspadskaya mine near the west-Siberian town of Mezhdurechensk in May 2010, killed 91 people, including rescue workers. Only 80 bodies have been uncovered from the mine.

Kemerovo is part of Russia’s major coal-producing Kuzbass region.

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