Rescuers Saturday helped an injured worker out of a flooded Russian diamond mine but the search continued for eight other still missing in the disaster, mine owners Alrosa said.
Alisher Mirzayev, 36, was in intensive care in a serious but stable condition in hospital suffering from hypothermia, but his life was not in danger, said a statement from the company.
Rescue efforts were continuing for eight other miners reported missing since Friday’s flooding at the Mir mine in Russia’s vast Sakha region some 4,160 kilometres (2,600 miles) east of Moscow.
The waters broke through into one of the mine’s pumping stations out of a flooded disused crater that contained some 300,000 cubic metres of water, the emergency situations ministry said — the equivalent of 120 Olympic-size swimming pools.
The accident happened at around 4:30pm (0730 GMT) Friday.
It is believed to have been caused by an “uncontrolled increase in the flow of water” out of the mine’s abandoned crater into the underground shaft, Alrosa said.
This was caused by sudden geological processes and the washing away of rocks in the crater, it added, but insisted that all of the mine’s “equipment has been regularly tested”.
The Sakha region’s branch of the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement Friday that it was investigating possible safety violations at the mine.
Russian television said the rescue operation at the mine named Mir, or peace in Russian, had been hampered by a power cut that stopped the lift system from working.
Television channels showed footage posted on social media of water flooding into a control room from the ceiling of underground passageways.
Alrosa, which is Russia’s largest diamond producer, said Friday that 133 people had been evacuated from the mine. Two were taken to hospital with minor injuries, the region’s health ministry said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who visited Siberia Friday morning, has been briefed about the accident, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS state news agency.
Alrosa’s president Sergei Ivanov flew to the scene on Friday as did the leader of the Sakha region, Yegor Borisov, who brought additional backup including surgeons and doctors specialising in emergency medicine. Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov also travelled to the scene.
Alrosa’s president, Sergei Ivanov, is the 36-year-old son of Putin’s former chief of staff, also called Sergei Ivanov. He has headed Alrosa since March this year. Alrosa, based in the Sakha region, made a net profit of 22.7 billion rubles ($376.37 million) in the first quarter of 2017.
The Mir mine was launched in 2009 and produces a million tonnes of diamond ore per year. Last year the diamonds it produced totalled 3.19 million carats, according to the company’s website.
Up to 2001, Alrosa used opencast mining at the Mir site, which has been used for diamond production since 1955. The opencast mine is a vast round crater with a diameter of over a kilometre that is one of the largest manmade holes on Earth.
The last major mining accident in Russia saw 36 people killed by methane explosions that ripped through Severnaya coal mine north of the Arctic Circle in February 2016.
In 2010, 91 people died after a methane explosion at the Raspadskaya coal mine in the Siberian region of Kemerovo.