Russian authorities proclaimed dozens of missing workers dead after a series of blasts in an Arctic coal mine. A fresh explosion killed several rescuers and another miner on Sunday.
The death toll in the Severnaya mine incident reached 36 on Sunday, as the rescue services halted their search for survivors.
A suspected methane leak in the pit caused two blasts and a partial cave-in at a depth of 748 meters (2,450 feet) on Thursday. Four miners were killed immediately, while the authorities declared 26 to be missing.
After days of search, however, Russian Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov proclaimed that the conditions in the affected part of the Arctic mine "did not allow anyone to survive."
"In the underground space where the 26 miners were, there are high temperatures and no oxygen," he said in televised comments on Sunday.
Some 110 miners were underground at the time of the blast.
The mine collapse prompted a massive search effort, with hundreds of rescuers working in almost zero visibility, in a shaft filled with smoke and rubble. The emergency services have yet to put out the fire in the pit.
Five rescue workers and another miner died in a separate explosion on Sunday, while trying to locate possible survivors.
Mourning in Komi
The Severnaya coal mine is located above the Arctic circle, near the city of Vorkuta and one of the most fearedSoviet-era working camps.
The Russian company Vorkutaugol, a subsidiary of steelmaker Severstal, operates the pit. Severstal is controlled by billionaire Alexey Mordashov.
The Thursday blast marks the worst Russianmining accident
in several years, raising new questions about safety rules in the country's coal industry.
Victims' families are set to start receiving financial compensation on Monday, the authorities in the north-Russian state of Komi announced. The state government has also declared a three-day mourning period.
President Vladimir Putin ordered a government commission to investigate the incident.
dj/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, Interfax)