Several miners were killed and more than a dozen remain missing after an apparent methane blast ripped through a coal mine in the rebel-controlled region of Ukraine. Russia deployed rescuers to the scene.
Rescue teams were working to reach miners inside the Skhidcarbon mine on Friday, after an underground explosion damaged the site located near the village of Yurievka in the so-called Luhansk Republic in eastern Ukraine.
At least four bodies have been retrieved so far, according to pro-Russian separatists. The fate of 13 other miners remains uncertain. The blast took place at the depth of some 300 meters (984 feet) on Thursday, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Rebel official Yevgeniy Katsavalov said that rescue teams had arrived from Russia and were trying to clear away harmful fumes.
"The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the blast damaged cables, air vents and ventilation systems were not working, but most importantly — there was no necessary equipment, which is why we asked for help from the emergency services of the Russian Federation," he said.
Russian Channel 5 previously reported that Ukrainian rescuers had been working only with shovels, pickaxes and crowbars.
The mine had been closed due to the Ukraine conflict in 2014 and only reopened last year. The deadly incident was most likely caused by a methane blast.
The self-proclaimed president of the rebel region, Leonid Pasechnik, described the Skhidcarbon explosion as a "horrible tragedy."
"We will keep believing in miracles until the end," he said on Twitter. "We believe that all the missing workers could come back to the surface alive."
Pasechnik also thanked Russia for its help.
Following the news of the blast, Ukraine's government said it was ready to assist with the situation and deploy its own rescue team.