Russia arrests safety inspectors after coal mining disaster; death toll jumps past 50

Two state safety inspectors are suspected criminal negligence leading to loss of life. (Credit: davidmarluz/istockphoto)

Police in Siberia said on Friday they had arrested two state safety inspectors suspected of criminal negligence leading to loss of life as Russia’s coal mining heartland mourned one of its worst disasters since Soviet times.

A gas leak in a coal mine in the Kemerovo region killed 52 people on Thursday, the Emergencies Ministry confirmed on Friday, including six rescuers who were sent down to try to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The Investigative Committee, a body that probes serious crimes, said the detained inspectors had issued a safety certificate for the mine in November but had not actually checked the facility.

The inspectors would be remanded in custody and charged soon, it said in a statement.

Three other people, including the director of the Listvyazhnaya mine and his deputy, were arrested late on Thursday.

Emergency workers, who were forced to halt their rescue effort the day before due to the risk of an explosion, brought the bodies of three miners and three rescuers to the surface, the regional governor said.

Four people, including a rescue worker, were in intensive care receiving treatment, the TASS news agency cited doctors as saying. A total of 50 people were in hospital, it said.

(By Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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