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At Least Eight Die in Russian Mine Blast

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An apparent methane blast ripped through a coal mine in Siberia early this morning, killing at least eight miners and trapping dozens more underground, Russian officials said.

Of the 52 miners known to have been in the Taizhina mine at the time of the blast, 13 were rescued or made it to the surface on their own, said Valery Kovchagin, an emergency department spokesman in the Kemerovo region.

Eight bodies were found, and rescuers were searching for 31 missing miners, he said.

Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleyev, who was overseeing the rescue operation, said on NTV television that the shortest path to the blast site deep underground was blocked by what appeared to be impassable rubble, and that rescuers were attempting to reach the area by a longer route from an adjacent mine.

A duty officer at the regional emergency department said authorities believe a methane blast occurred at a depth of 560 metres (1,840 feet).

Officials initially said four of the 13 survivors were hospitalised with moderate injuries and burns, but the duty officer later said that only two remained in hospital.

Miners who arrived for the next shift were sent away after the accident, which occurred at about 7am (midnight BST).

Accidents are common in the Russian coal industry, and miners stage frequent protests over wage delays and declining safety standards.

In September 2002, one miner at Taizhina was killed and two were seriously injured when the roof of a ventilation shaft collapsed during reconstruction work, showering them with rocks.

More than 600 miners work at the mine in the city of Osinniki, about 1,850 miles east of Moscow in western Siberia?s coal-rich Kuzbass area. It is a new mine, opened in 1998.

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