Twin methane gas blasts ripped through Russia’s largest coal mine in western Siberia, killing at least 12 workers and injuring 41 others, officials said today.

The explosions, one of which occurred last evening and the other this morning, took place in ‘Raspadskaya’ coal mine in the Siberian region of Kemerovo, about 3,500 kilometres east of Moscow.

Twelve miners were killed and 41 others injured in the blasts, local officials said.

The fate of 84 people, including 20 rescuers, was unknown as the salvage work had been stopped amid fears of more explosions of methane gas.

“The rescue work will continue when the atmosphere in the mine is restored, but to conduct rescue work now means to send people to die,” Aman Tuleyev, the Governor of Kemerovo, told Itar-Tass.

On the orders of President Dmitry Medvedev, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, along with a fresh team of rescuers from nearby Tula coal region, rushed to the site by air to personally supervise the rescue operations.

“According to new information, 359 people were at the bottom of the mine at the moment of the accident. Most of them have been evacuated,” an Emergency Situations Ministry official was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

It was not immediately known what set off the blasts.

Raspadskaya mine produces about 8 million tonnes coal annually year, according to the company’s website.

Many of the country’s mines have poor safety records, and there have been calls for standards to be tightened.

More In: International | News