A methane explosion tore through a coal mine belonging to Mittal Steel in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, killing 41 people in the country's worst mining accident on record.
The Lenin mine, where the blast occurred just before 9 am (11 pm EDT), is one of eight supplying coal to the company's Temirtau factory, one of the world's biggest steel plants.
Grigory Prezent, deputy coal department director of Mittal Steel Temirtau, said that it was "almost certain" that 41 people had been killed.
"Thirty-two bodies have been found. They are being recovered at the moment. Another nine are in a dead-end coal face... But it's obvious that they are dead," he said.
The steel plant in the central region of Karaganda, 200 km (125 miles) south of the capital, Astana, continued to work as normal, a company source said, and the accident would not affect customers.
Small groups of tearful relatives, many of them women who brought their children, gathered outside the mine's offices in the town of Shakhtinsk, anxious for news. Others went to the local hospital where three men were in intensive care.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former blast furnace operator at the Soviet-era steel plant, offered his condolences to the relatives of the dead miners.
"At this somber moment all citizens of Kazakhstan keenly feel the pain that has befallen the miners of Karaganda," he said on his Web site www.akorda.kz.