UK & World News
Sixteen Killed In Russia Coal Mine Explosion
Sixteen miners have died and two are thought to be trapped underground after an explosion at a coal mine in northern Russia.
Rescue teams are attempting to reach the men at the Vorkutinskaya mine in Vorkuta, Komi region, around 1,160 miles northeast of Moscow.
A ministry spokesperson told Sky News a methane explosion was reported at the mine at 10.28 local time this morning.
She said a plane carrying medical personnel would be dispatched to the region from Moscow.
Russia's Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has asked for a report on the situation and urged help for the miners' families.
The mine belongs to a division of Severstal, one of Russia's largest steel producers.
"Our rescue team has only just gone out to the mine," said Yevgeny Sukharev, a spokesman for Vorkutaugol, a coal supplier for Severstal.
"Clearly, an incident has occurred, but we cannot yet say exactly what happened and what scale (it is on)," he said.
Russian state TV said the families of those killed in the explosion would receive 2m rubles, around £42,000, compensation.
The mine in the northern city of Vorkuta has been working since 1973.
According to its website it won a corporate award in 2011 for "worthy working conditions - the basis for respect in the work force".
Once the powerhouse of the Soviet economy, Russia's coal mines have a poor safety record, with frequent accidents reported despite recent efforts to improve conditions.
Last month four workers died in an explosion at a mine in western Siberia.
In 2010, 68 people were killed in two methane blasts at Russia's biggest underground coal mine, the Raspadskaya mine in Siberia.