(CNN) – At least 11 people were killed in an accident at a coal mine in Russia’s Siberia region on Thursday, local authorities said, as emergency workers tried to rescue dozens more miners who were still trapped underground.
Coal dust caught fire in a ventilation shaft at the Listvyazhnaya mine in the snowy Kemerovo region, filling the mine with smoke, the TASS news agency said, citing local emergency services.
Eleven people were found dead, regional governor Sergei Tsivilev said, and 46 were still underground. Dozens of others were being treated at the hospital, at least some of them with smoke poisoning. Four were in critical condition.
Rescue workers and ambulances could be seen arriving at the mine complex in video footage, with police huddled outside as it snowed in the region approximately 3,500 km east of Moscow.
Some 285 people were inside the mine when the smoke spread through the ventilation shaft, the emergency ministry said. At least 239 made it to the surface, authorities said. They did not explain what had caused the smoke.
Dozens are still trapped in the coal mine in Russia
The Kremlin said it hoped the miners still underground would make it out and that President Vladimir Putin had ordered the emergency minister to fly to the region to help with the operation.
Tsivilev said there was no longer dense smoke in the mine, where there was still electricity and ventilation, but that contact had been lost with some people deep in the earth.
“For now there is not much smoke, so we hope there is no fire,” Tsivilev said in video comments shared on his Telegram channel. “We do not have lines of communication with these people, the underground communication system does not work.”
The regional branch of the Investigation Committee’s law enforcement agency said it had opened a criminal case for negligence that had caused the miners’ deaths.
“According to preliminary data, several workers suffered smoke poisoning. The number of victims is being specified,” he said in a previous statement.
The mine is part of SDS-Holding, owned by the private company Siberian Business Union. The union did not immediately comment.