ABBOTTABAD: As many as 13 people are feared dead under the rubble of a phosphate mine that collapsed on Wednesday in a remote village in Tarnawai union council, 28 kilometres from Abbottabad.
Eleven workers and two owners are among the dead, according to police and villagers. Independent sources said 14 people had died. However, the toll could not be verified as bodies are still buried.
Eight hours on, a proper rescue operation was yet to begin as the mine is located in an area that is inaccessible by road. Villagers, however, sprung into action and began excavating through the heavy mass but the harsh winter and rain hampered their progress. Problems were compounded as the district administration does not own earth-moving machinery.
Police and villagers said that about nine miners from a nearby village and the owners were working in the mine of Batkinala Kalu Bandi village when at around 1 pm, it caved in burying all the miners alive.
The owners were identified as Younas Shah and Saeed Shah. Villagers said the mine is about 70 feet deep.
“About 13 people were having lunch at the mouth of the mine when it caved in and they were buried alive,” villager Shaukat Khan told The Express Tribune by phone. He said the mine owners also excavated phosphate alongside workers despite lacking proper training.
DCO Abbottabad Imtiaz Hussain confirmed that 11 mine workers died. He said they were working on a private mine, which was not managed by the mineral department.
Hussain said that he had sought assistance from local military authorities and the provincial government to send in Rescue 1122 personnel.
Police sources, however, said they will launch a rescue operation on Thursday morning.
Villagers said that those feared dead are Nasim Shah, Waheed Shah, Naveed Shah, Razaq Abbasi, Sheikh Younas, Muhammad Javed, Muhammad Shabbir, Sardar Muhammad Waheed and Riaz.
Coalmine disaster claims one life in Mach
One person was killed, while two others were trapped, when a coalmine collapsed in Mach, about 90 kilometres southwest of Quetta, on Wednesday.
According to local coalminers, several miners were working in a coalmine when it caved in. A rescue operation was initiated soon after.
The rescue workers, who are also labourers, managed to retrieve one body from the coalmine. “Two coal-miners are still trapped inside the mine,” a labourer said.
No adequate machinery was available to pull out or rescue the miners in time.
Several such incidents have taken place in Mach and Sorange in 2011, costing the lives of over 100 miners.
Additional reporting by Shehzad Baloch in Quetta
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2012.