More than 52 miners and rescuers died and dozens are missing following a gas leak that saw a Siberian coal mine filled with smoke, Russian news agencies reported.
Six rescuers had been killed as well, according to Tass, Ria Novosti news agency.
Earlier, Kemerovo governor Sergei Tsivilev said on Telegram that while many were evacuated, at least 35 people remained trapped.
“The chance of an explosion is very high. We’ve decided to suspend the search and rescue operation until the concentration of gas reduces,” Tsivilev said.
“I have spoken several times with Kemerovo Region Governor [Sergei Tsivilev] and the heads of rescue services,” he said during a meeting with Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
According to news outlet Interfax, citing officials from Rostekhnadzor, Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog, the latest inspection of the Listvyazhnaya mine took place on November 19. The report did not offer any details on the results of the inspection.
This is not the first accident at the mine, according to local media, with a methane gas explosion killing 13 in 2004. More widely, accidents in Russian mines are not uncommon.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in Severnaya coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of the incident, authorities analysed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them potentially unsafe.