The death toll from a coal mine collapse in Sorange, Balochistan rose to 45 on Monday with officials announcing that there were no survivors.
According to Express 24/7 correspondent Mohammad Kazim, Balochistan provincial Minister for Irrigation and Power Sardar Aslam Bizenjo said that all 45 workers trapped in the Sorange mine had died.
Bizenjo made this announcement after visiting the mine site, reports Kazim.
Efforts are being made to recover all the bodies from the mine.
The mine in the far-flung Sorange district of the troubled southwestern province was poorly ventilated, allowing poisonous gases to accumulate and trigger blasts which led to the collapse on Sunday, officials said.
Rescue workers retrieved 10 bodies on Sunday. “They had severe burns, which means that the blasts also caused a fire,” Mohammad Iftikhar, provincial chief inspector of mines, told AFP overnight. He had earlier said the victims died of suffocation.
Balochistan’s home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani had earlier said the missing workers were unlikely to receive enough oxygen to survive. Rescue work, which had to be briefly stopped on Sunday because some of the emergency crew were knocked unconscious by the noxious fumes, had resumed and military experts and engineers had been called in to help, Raisani said.
Updated from print edition (below)
19 dead as mine collapses
At least 19 miners were killed and more than 30 others were trapped and feared dead after a coalmine caved in due to explosions caused by accumulation of methane gas in Sorange, about 30 kilometres from Quetta in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The mine is owned by the government-owned Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC). Its management had been warned 15 days earlier by the government of the danger of an explosion due to an accumulation of methane gas and told to stop mining.
As many as 53 miners were working in depth of 4,000 meters in the coalmine when explosions took place causing a collapse. Rescue work was delayed because the equipment for emergency services was not available near the mine and had to be transported from Quetta.
However, the miners of nearby coalmines rushed to help their trapped colleagues and started rescue work on their own.
After several hours, they were able to retrieve nine dead bodies and rescue four miners alive. The rescued miners were deeply traumatised and not fully cogent when they came out.
“More than 30 miners are still trapped underground and efforts are underway to get them out. However, there are less hopes for their survival,” an official said.
Senior provincial government officials, including Urban Development Minister Ismail Gujar, rushed to the site and later the military also joined the rescue operation.
“Three explosions occurred in the coalmine which have resulted in collapse of the coalmine,” said Mohammad Sharif, a rescue worker.
As of the filing of this story, rescue work was still ongoing. Relief work has been slow due to a lack of experience on the part of the rescue workers, who are employees of the Metropolitan Corporation Quetta working without any specialised equipment.
“Most of the equipment are outdated and are no longer
in use or relevant,” said an official of mines department on the condition of anonymity.
There is also the danger of more explosions in the mine.
“There is still methane gas in the coalmine which hinders the rescue operation,” said one rescue worker.
Balochistan Mining Secretary Mushtaq Raisani said that an investigation will be launched into the
incident to determine who was responsible for the accident.
“Why did they not stop the mining despite the [government] warning? Whoever is found to have been negligent of their responsibilities will face criminal charges,” said Raisani.
According to sources at the Balochistan Mines and Mineral Department, PMDC had sublet the coalmine to a private contractor in violation of the Balochistan Mineral Rules 2002, which do not allow any firm to sublet any mine.
“There are several other coalmines that firms had sublet to private contractors. The mines inspectors do not take any action or ensure the safety and protection of the labourers,” said one mine department source.
There are more than 60,000 miners working in approximately 2,200 mines, most of which do not take adequate safety measures resulting in accidents like this one, according to mining department officials.
The president of the mines’ labour union, Bakht Nawab, said that they have been
demanding from the
government to provide labourers with safety equipment in order to protect their lives for the past three years but their efforts have been in vain.
“Miners are not even provided safety lights and gas detector,” said Nawab. “They are being treated like animals.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2011.