Nine miners feared trapped after Russian pit blast

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Nine coalminers were feared trapped under rubble on Monday after an explosion at a pit in the Komi region of northern Russia, the Emergencies Ministry said.

The ministry said the blast at 10:28 a.m. local time (2.28 p.m Singapore time) was probably caused by a buildup of methane. It initially said 18 people had been trapped but later issued a statement saying several had escaped or been rescued.

The mine belongs to a division of Severstal, one of Russia's largest steel producers.

"Our rescue team has only just gone out to the mine," said Yevgeny Sukharev, a spokesman for Vorkutaugol, a coal supplier for Severstal.

"Clearly, an incident has occurred, but we cannot yet say exactly what happened and what scale (it is on)," he said.

The coal mine in Russia's far north is owned by Vorkutaugol, in which Severstal has a more than 90 percent stake.