Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov
A methane gas explosion killed at least 10 miners at a coal pit in northern Russia on Monday and rescue workers were trying to save seven more feared trapped underground, government officials said.
About 250 people had been below the surface at the time of the blast in the Komi region but most had escaped or been rescued, the Emergencies Ministry said.
Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov moved quickly into action, barking orders at officials leading the rescue effort, but the blast is likely to renew debate about safety in Russia's mines because of the regularity of such accidents, reports Reuters.
"We need a clear and understandable picture of what happened," Puchkov told the officials via a video link-up soon after the explosion.
The blast was at Vorkutinskaya mine owned by a division of one of Russia's largest steel producers, Severstal.
The Emergencies Ministry had said earlier on Monday that nine people were feared trapped and that nine miners had been saved. A local law enforcement officer was quoted by Russian media as saying that those saved had been seriously injured.
The Investigative Committee opened an investigation into possible safety violations which could have caused the explosion.
In 2007, a methane explosion caused one of Russia's worst recent mine disasters, killing 110 people in the coal-rich region of Kemerovo. Another explosion in the same region in 2010 killed more than 60.