12 miners killed in Harnai coal pit blast

Methane gas triggered explosion, says Balochistan mines inspector

Reuters March 20, 2024
Balochistan chief inspector for mine said rescue teams recovered 12 bodies while the survivors had been taken to hospital. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE


At least 12 miners were killed after a coal pit collapsed following an explosion in Balochistan’s Harnai district, officials and rescuers said on Wednesday.

The bodies of ten more miners were pulled from the mine, officials said, bringing the death toll to 12 after the rescue bid ended.

Balochistan Mines Chief Inspector Abdul Ghani said the mine was filled with methane gas that triggered a powerful blast. The explosion caused the collapse of the mine and 20 miners were trapped inside.

A rescue operation was launched to ensure the unhurt recovery of the trapped coal miners, Abdul Ghani said. He informed that the rescue workers retrieved the dead bodies of 12 coal miners and 8 miners were rescued alive.

The rescue coal miners were shifted to the district headquarters hospital Harnai for medical treatment. He had no information about the condition of the eight coal miners since he was busy shifting the dead bodies to their ancestral places.

"The rescue effort has concluded with the recovery of all 12 dead bodies," Abdul Ghani Baloch, chief inspector of mines for Balochistan province, told AFP.

"Two bodies were recovered during the night, with the remaining 10 retrieved early in the morning."

Abdullah Shahwani, Balochistan's director general of mining, also confirmed the death toll, and said "Initial reports suggest the incident was caused by methane gas".

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif issued a statement expressing "profound sorrow and grief over the loss of precious lives".

It was initially thought that there were only ten miners involved in the cave-in about 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of Quetta city.

Rescue workers from the government mining department and the disaster management agency toiled through the night to reach them.

A group of eight people who were attempting to rescue their colleagues also became trapped for several hours, but were later brought to safety by a government rescue team -- some of them unconscious.

Chief Minister Balochistan, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti took notice of the incident and directed the Provincial Disaster Management

Authority (PDMA) to launch a rescue operation to ensure the unhurt recovery of the trapped miners.

"A risky operation was launched to make sure the recovery of the trapped miners", Chief Minister Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said on X.

Read Balochistan’s killer coal mines

Chief Inspector Mines also said that most of the dead belong to the Pishin district of Balochistan and the Achakzai tribe, whose bodies have been sent to their native areas.

A miner working in another coal mine in the area said that the rescue teams of Mines and PDMA arrived late.

He said that there was no proper rescue equipment and arrangement at the spot, so the miners went down to the mine to save their colleagues without taking any safety measures and two of them died.

Hazardous working conditions inside coal mines of Balochistan have claimed scores of precious human lives during the last few years. Such incidents in Dukki, Mach, Quetta, Harnai and other parts of Balochistan have become the order of the day.

"These are black holes", Sultan Muhammad Khan, the central leader of the mine workers association said. He demanded that the government lodge cases against responsible contractors and mine owners.

"This incident is neither the first nor will it be the last in Balochistan," Lala Sultan, head of the Balochistan Coal Mines Workers Federation told AFP.

"Safety measures at coal mines are scarcely implemented. While other provinces have some safety protocols in place, in Balochistan safety is utterly neglected."

HRCP is deeply alarmed by the deaths of 12 coal miners in a mining accident in Harnai, Balochistan, after a methane gas explosion caused part of the mine to collapse, leaving them trapped.

Unfortunately, coal miners in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remain consistently vulnerable to accidents and explosions due to low levels of awareness of mining hazards, and the lack of safety protocols, contemporary mining and rescue techniques, and personal protective equipment.

The government must investigate the causes of the accident in Harnai and take immediate steps to create a safer working environment for coal miners everywhere, including the urgent ratification of ILO Convention 176 to ensure workplace safety.

(With additional input from News Desk, Agencies)


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