Officials: 17 Die in Russia Mine Blast

A methane gas explosion ripped through a Siberian coal mine Monday, killing at least 17 miners and prompting efforts to evacuate more than 100 still underground hours after the accident, emergency officials said.

At least five miners were injured in the blast at the Ulyanovskaya mine in the Kemerovo region, said Alina Avyazova, a spokeswoman for emergency officials.

The explosion occurred during the afternoon when 186 workers were underground, said Valery Korchagin, a spokesman for regional emergency officials. He said 88 were brought safely to the surface, and that rescuers were working to evacuate the rest.

Rescue workers were in contact with miners underground, Avyazova said. It was not clear whether they were in immediate danger.

The Ulyanovskaya mine is in Novokuznetsk, a sprawling city about 1,850 miles east of Moscow in a coal-rich swath of south-central Siberia known as the Kuzbass.

The mine - operated by Yuzhkuzbassugol, an affiliate of Russian coal and steel company Evraz Group SA - opened in 2002 and produces 3.3 million tons of coal a year, according to the RIA-Novosti news agency.

Accidents are common in the Russian coal industry. A blast at a mine on the outskirts of Novokuznetsk killed 47 workers in 2004 - the deadliest in the region since 1997, when a methane explosion at a mine in the city killed 67.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.