Rescue workers are expected to renew efforts to save more than 80 people trapped in the Raspadskaya coal mine in West Siberia within the next few hours, the director of the rescue operation said on Sunday.
Two methane gas explosions occurred in the space of four hours late on Saturday and early on Sunday. A total of 64 workers were trapped after the first blast and 20 rescue workers went missing after the second. The death toll currently stands at 12 and a further 59 people have been hospitalized.
Shortly after the second blast the rescue operation was suspended amid fears of further explosions.
"Our department will be ready to start a rescue operation as soon as the concentration of methane in the air decreases. We hope this will be at around midnight local time [18.00 GMT,]" Sergey Sharov told the relatives of miners and journalists.
He said the explosion destroyed the mine's ventilation system and now work is being carried out to air the shaft.
"The threat of further explosions still remains," Sharov added.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the accident at the mine a serious tragedy and ordered local authorities to do everything possible to rescue the people still trapped.
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoygu flew to the mine to personally supervise the rescue operation.
MEZHDURECHEHSK (KAMEROVO REGION), May 9 (RIA Novosti)