Explosion in Russian coal mine kills at least 9

A methane gas explosion in a Siberian coal mine killed at least nine miners Monday, a Russian emergency official said.

At least two other miners were injured by the blast at the Ulyanovskaya mine in Siberia's Kemerovo region, Valery Korchagin, spokesman for the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said by telephone.

The afternoon blast occurred when 186 workers were underground in the mine, Korchagin said. He said 55 had been brought safely to the surface, including two who were injured, and that evacuation efforts continued several hours after the accident.

It was unclear whether those who remained underground were in danger.

An Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman in Moscow, Veronika Smolskaya, put the number of injured at three.

The Ulyanovskaya mine is in Novokuznetsk, a sprawling city about 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) east of Moscow in a coal-rich swath of south-central Siberia known as the Kuzbass. President Vladimir Putin ordered Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu to travel to the area, Russian news agencies reported.

The mine - operated by Yuzhkuzbassugol, an affiliate of Russian coal and steel company Evraz Group SA - opened in 2002 and produces 3 million metric tons (3.3 million U.S. 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, reports AP.

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