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Russian Miners Killed In Blast

The blast occurred at the Vorkutinskaya mine in Russia's northern region. (file photo)
The blast occurred at the Vorkutinskaya mine in Russia's northern region. (file photo)
According to Russia's Interior Ministry, 18 miners have been killed in a coal-mine blast in the northern Komi region.

The ministry said the bodies were retrieved after the explosion on the morning of February 11 at the Vorkutinskaya mine.

Rescuers are searching for miners who may remain trapped under rubble.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov, who was leading the rescue effort, said the families of the victims will be given 2 million rubles ($67,000).

Petr Lobanov, chief spokesman of the Komi Republic division of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, described the accident to Russian news television Rossia 24.

"According to preliminary information, a methane gas explosion took place at a depth of 800 meters," he said. "A shift of miners comprising 259 people was present at the time of the incident. Twenty-three of them were working in the area of the accident."

The Emergency Situations Ministry said four miners were able to get out of the mine on their own and two were rescued.

Three men were injured as a result of the explosion, and two of them were hospitalized.

Russian Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin announced that a criminal case has been opened over the accident for the possible violation of safety rules during mining operations.

The Vorkutinskaya coal mine is located outside the city of Vorkuta in the Russian Arctic.

It belongs to a division of Severstal, one of the leading steel and steel-related mining companies in Russia.

Deadly accidents at Russian coal mines are frequent because of negligence and lax safety regulations.

In January, nine people died in two such accidents.

One of the country's worst recent mine disasters killed 110 people in 2007.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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