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Russia mourns dead miners as ‘miracle’ survivor found

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GRAMOTEINO, Russia (AFP) — Russia on Friday was mourning more than 50 people who died in a Siberian coal mine disaster, though the discovery of a rescue worker presumed dead was being hailed as a miracle.

The accident on Thursday at the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo mining region saw smoke fill the site after an apparent gas explosion.

After initially reporting that six rescuers had died during attempts to reach miners, officials said Friday that one had been found alive after spending the night in the mine and was taken to hospital for treatment.

Acting emergencies minister Alexander Chupriyan called the survival of medic Alexander Zakovryashin “a miracle” and paid tribute to those who had died.

“Rescuers, just like miners, did their duty to the end,” he said, and their names “will remain forever in our memory.”

News of his survival was a small consolation for a community devastated by the loss of 51 lives, including those of 46 miners, in the worst mining accident in Russia in more than a decade.

Officials said it appeared the accident at the mine had been caused by a methane explosion.

Investigators launched probes into possible safety violations and senior managers at the facility were arrested.

Flags flew at half-mast outside official buildings in Kemerovo and grief-stricken relatives of the victims wept outside the snow-covered mine site.

“I can’t carry on,” one woman said, as families gathered in sub-zero temperatures.

A former worker at the mine, Denis Timokhin, told independent TV channel Dozhd that safety violations were frequent at the facility, accusing management of forcing miners to work despite high methane concentrations.

“If you don’t want to work, quit,” he said. “No safety protocols, all sensors are plugged with bags.”

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