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Russia:  11 More Miners Found Alive - 2003-10-29

Officials in southern Russia say 11 of 13 coal miners trapped inside a mine since last week have been found alive. The men were found after rescuers tunneled through solid rock, way below the surface.

Rescuers managed to reach the trapped miners after tunneling through the last bit of solid rock, into the area where the miners took refuge after an accident last Thursday. Officials say one of the miners died, another is missing and at least one of the surviving men is in critical condition.

But the mood above ground has turned to joy at the news that most of the miners have been found.

Rescuers drilled through more than 50 meters of rock from an adjacent mine to reach an area where the men had enough air and warmth to enable them to survive. Rescuers had feared the air had already run out or that the miners might have died for other reasons.

The men were among 71 miners who were working in the Zapadnaya mine, in an area 1000 kilometers south of Moscow, when water from an underground lake flowed into a shaft above them, blocking their way out. Twenty-five men managed to scramble to safety and another 33 were rescued on Saturday. But 13 remained below the surface, including the mine's new director.

Elation over the success of the rescue has been tempered with word of another mine accident, in Russia's Far Eastern region, that has killed at least five miners.

Officials say a methane gas explosion ripped through the mine near Partizansk, near Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast.

Scores of other men were rescued there, according to emergency officials.

Mine accidents are common in Russia and other former Soviet republics, where working conditions have long been difficult. Critics say mining companies have failed to provide enough funding to insure the safety of the men.