Dozens of people, including rescuers, were killed in an accident at a coal mine in Siberia

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A gas leak at a Siberian coal mine killed at least 52 people on Thursday, Russian news agencies said, including six rescuers who were dispatched to try to remove dozens of men in what was one of the worst mining disasters. from Russia in more than 10 years. .

The regional Investigation Committee said that three people, including the Listvyazhnaya mine manager and his deputy, had been arrested on suspicion of violating industrial safety rules.

He said the miners suffocated when a ventilation shaft filled with gas. State television said prosecutors believed there had been a methane explosion.

The fatalities include 11 miners who had already been confirmed dead, 35 who had been reported missing and the six rescuers.

Dozens of people were hospitalized, at least some for smoke inhalation. Four were in critical condition.

The coal-producing region of Kemerovo, approximately 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow, has suffered fatal mining accidents for years.

The Listvyazhnaya mine is part of the SDS-Holding, owned by the privately owned Siberian Business Union. The owner did not immediately comment.

Some 285 people were inside the mine when the smoke spread through the ventilation shaft, the Emergency Ministry said. Authorities said 239 had reached the surface.

President Vladimir Putin said he had spoken with the governor and emergency officials, and the Kremlin said it had ordered the emergency minister to fly to the region to help.

Kemerovo declared three days of mourning.

In 2007, the region was the site of the worst mining accident since the collapse of the Soviet Union when an explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine claimed the lives of more than 100 people. In 2010, explosions at the Raspadskaya mine in the region killed more than 90 people.

(AP)