The death toll from an explosion which ripped through the Severnaya mine in Arctic Russia has reached 36.
The incident, which occurred on Thursday, has been described as the worst mining disaster in Russian history.
Two explosions ripped through the mine at a depth of 748m, while 110 people were working in the mine.
Four miners were killed in the initial explosions, with 26 workers trapped by collapsed rock.
On Sunday, a third explosion rocked the mine and the trapped workers, as well as six rescuers, were all presumed dead.
An initial investigation suggests that the incident was caused by methane emissions and blast at the mine, proved by laboratory analysis provided by Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia.
Russia’s industrial safety watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, said the accident was a “geological event”.
CEO of Severstal Management Vadim Larin expressed his “deepest condolences”.
“On behalf of everyone at Severstal I would like to express my deepest condolences to those affected by this tragic incident, particularly the friends and families of our valued colleagues who lost their lives,” Mr Larin said,
“They will not be forgotten and the company will provide full support to all those affected by yesterday’s terrible events.
“The safety of our employees is our number one priority, we have invested significantly into safety equipment and procedures at Vorkutaugol in recent years.
“The company is working with the authorities and an investigation is already underway to identify the cause of this tragic incident”.
Eighty workers safely evacuated the mine after the explosion, with eight receiving non life-threatening injuries.
During a briefing session, the Minister of Emergencies Vladimir Puchkov ordered to experts of the technical committee to develop within an hour the options of taking situation at Severnaya mine under control.
“I give you an hour to prepare comprehensive and clear report on options developed by the Technical Committee, taking in the consideration the third explosion, which happened at night”, said the Minister.
He pointed out, that “specialists must evaluate all risks and after that we would be able to conclude our further actions”.
The technical director of Vorkutaugol Denis Paikin reported, that several options of taking the situation under control are considered.
“At this moment we have two options, which we will consider. The first one is the flooding of the emergency mine and seat of fire. The second is a sealing of mines in order to prevent the access of oxygen into the mine, while pumping special substances inside to take the fire under control,” Mr Paikin said.
February 28 and 29, and March 1 have been declared as days of mourning.