An underground methane gas explosion has killed 18 workers in the Vorkutinskaya coal mine located in the Komi region of northern Russia.

Around 260 people were working 800m below the surface of the mine, operated by steel maker Severstal, at the time of the blast.

Rescuers said they had brought ten bodies to the surface and they feared there might be several more, reports The Associated Press.

The incident prompted President Vladimir Putin to order Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to handle recovery and rescue operations at the mine.

"The head of state expressed deep condolences to the relatives and loved ones of the killed miners," the Kremlin said in a statement.

The Russian Federal Investigative Committee has initiated an investigation to identify any safety violations at the 38-year old mine.

Meanwhile, local media are reporting that the families of the victims will receive RUB2m ($66,400) in compensation.

Mining accidents are common in Russia. In 2007, a major mine blast killed 110 people in the coal-mining region of Kemerevo and another explosion in the same region in 2010 killed more than 60.

NRI Energy Technology