Rescuers have found a survivor in a coal mine in Siberia, where dozens of miners are believed to have died after a devastating methane gas explosion, a senior local official announced Friday.
Sergei Tsefilov, the governor of the Kemerovo region where the mine is located, said on the Telegram messaging app that the survivor had been found at the Listvyazhnaya mine in southwest Siberia, and was “being taken to the hospital.”
Acting Emergencies Minister Alexander Choprian said the man found in the mine was a lifeguard and presumed dead.
Authorities confirmed the deaths of 14 people on Thursday – 11 miners were found dead and three rescue workers later died while searching for others who were trapped in a remote area of the mine. Six more bodies were recovered Friday morning, and 31 people are still missing.
Governor Tsefilov said finding other survivors at this stage is highly unlikely.
Hours after a methane gas explosion and a fire filled the mine with toxic fumes on Thursday, rescuers were forced to halt the search due to a buildup of methane and carbon monoxide from the flames. A total of 239 people were rescued from the mine. As of Friday morning, 63 of them had sought medical help, according to Kemerovo officials.
On Thursday, TASS and RIA Novosti news agencies quoted emergency officials as saying there was no chance of finding other survivors, and put the death toll at 52 on Thursday evening. Rescuing a survivor Friday morning brings the number to 51.
This appears to be the worst 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 gas explosions at a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of the accident, authorities analyzed the safety of 58 coal mines in the country and declared 20 of them, or 34%, to be unsafe.
Regional officials declared three days of mourning. The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into the fire for violations of safety regulations that led to the deaths. It added that the mine manager and two senior managers had been arrested.
Another criminal investigation began Friday into the alleged negligence of the state officials who inspected the mine earlier this month.