Russia's diamond giant says 9 missing after mine flooded

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Russia's diamond giant says 9 missing after mine flooded

Russia's diamond giant says 9 missing after mine flooded

Moscow (AFP) - Rescuers at one of Russia's largest diamond mines were searching Friday for 9 miners still unaccounted for after water leaked into an underground shaft with more than 100 workers inside.

Alrosa, Russia's largest diamond producer, said in a statement that "nine people are being searched for" after water broke through into the mine at around 0730 GMT.

The water leaked into one of the mine's pumping stations out of a flooded disused crater that contained some 300,000 cubic metres of water, or the equivalent of 120 Olympic-size swimming pools, the emergency situations ministry said.

Russian television said the rescue operation at the mine in the Sakha region some 4,160 kilometres (2,600 miles) east of Moscow was hindered by a power cut that stopped the lift system from working.

Alrosa said that 133 people had been evacuated from the mine named Mir, or peace in Russian, while nine people remained unaccounted for. It corrected a previous number of 151 miners inside, saying that nine of those people had in fact not entered the shaft.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who visited Siberia this morning, has been briefed about the accident, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS state news agency.

The Sakha region's branch of the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement that it was carrying out a check into possible safety violations at the mine.

Alrosa's president Sergei Ivanov flew to the scene as did the Sakha region's governor Yegor Borisov, who brought additional backup including surgeons and doctors specialising in emergency medicine.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov was also travelling 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.

Its Mir underground mine was launched in 2009 and produces 1 million tonnes of diamond ore per year. Last year the diamonds it produced totalled 3.19 million carats, according to the company's site.

Up to 2001, Alrosa used opencast mining at the Mir site, which has been used for diamond production since 1955. The Mir 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.