Rescue officials on Monday found the body of five miners, including two brothers, who were trapped in a coalmine near the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) after a gas explosion led to the collapse of mine stopes on Sunday evening.

The local administration has registered a criminal case against the leaseholder and contractor of the miners for not following the safety code.

The mine lies in Seri Darra village, towards the east of Muzaffarabad, at an hour-long drive through a steep hilly road.

Around seven miners were busy digging coal some 800 feet inside the tunnel when a gas explosion caused the collapse of mine stopes on Sunday evening, deputy commissioner Muzaffarabad Masoodur Rehman told Dawn.

Two of them who were towards the entrance of tunnel managed to rush outside with minor wounds, while the rest were buried under the ground, he added.

The rescue operation was launched shortly afterwards with DC Rehman, SSP Raja Akmal and SHO City Police Station Rashid Habib Masoodi supervising it themselves until the last body was recovered at 4am on Monday.

SHO Masoodi identified the deceased as Nosherwan and his brother Bakht Munir; Bahadar Khan and Gulzeb from Gulbar village; and Aslam Khan from Amankot village of Swat.

Two miners, identified as Bakhti Rohan, a sibling of the two deceased brothers, and Akbar Ali, received minor injuries. All the victims were aged between 25 and 35 years.

The SHO said that all the bodies were handed over to the victims' relatives after completion of procedural requirements.

The lease was in the name of one Haji Faridoon Awan, a resident of Haripur (KP), and some of his local partners.

DC Rehman said that since the leaseholder and contractor had not followed the requisite safety standards, they were booked under Section 322 (qatl-bis-sabab) and section 337 of Azad Penal Code.

Six of them, including the leaseholder and contractor’s son, have been arrested, he said.

He said that the mine had also been sealed until all safety standards were put in place.

Rehman said that he had also ordered the authorities concerned to conduct ‘security audit’ of all mines in his jurisdiction.

Coal mining is considered much more hazardous than hard rock mining due to flat-lying rock strata, generally incompetent rock, leakage or explosion of poisonous gases and coal dust, collapsing of mine stopes or general mechanical errors from improperly used or malfunctioning mining equipment.

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