QUETTA: The death toll in Saturday’s incidents at two coal mines near here has risen to 23 as the bodies of five more victims have been recovered from the mine of the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) in Sur-range coal filed.

Balochistan’s Chief Inspector of Mines Iftikhar Ahmed said bodies of two miners had been recovered from the mine on Saturday and it was thought that five other miners had been trapped in the mine after being hit by a landslide inside the mine. But when rescue workers went deep inside the mine on Sunday, they found the five miners had also died.

He said the seven miners were working 3,400 feet deep inside the mine when the landslide occurred inside it, burying the seven, adding that the landslide might have been caused by some activity taking place under the mine. The mine has been sealed and an investigation launched into the incident.

Labourers demand compensation for victims, safety arrangements at mines

The seven victims were identified as Munawwar Khan, Sher Baz, Khan Badshah, Abdul Hakeem, Faizullah, Gul Fareeduddin and Muhammad Ibrahim.

In the other incident, 16 other workers were killed on Saturday when another coal mine collapsed after a gas explosion inside it in the Marwar area.

“The bodies of 16 miners have been recovered and sent to the victims’ native area in Shangla, Swat district,” said Ataullah, director of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority.

He said rescue workers had rescued 11 other miners who had been trapped in the mine. They were shifted to the Bolan Medical College Hospital’s burn unit and four of them, who had suffered serious injuries, had been admitted there.

Sources said that after the gas explosion, a huge fire broke out in the Marwar mine causing it to collapse. Other mine workers who were present in the area immediately rushed to the site and launched a rescue operation. However, they faced difficulties as the mouth of the mine had been blocked by a boulder after the blast.

Meanwhile, activists of the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PMCLF) staged a demonstration outside Quetta Press Club on Sunday to protest against the killing of 23 miners in the two mine incidents.

PMCLF president Sultan Muhammad Khan and other labour leaders spoke on the occasion

They said lack of safety arrangements inside the two mines, including air ventilation, had caused the fatal incidents. “The owners and managers of mining companies don’t care for poor workers because for them money is more important than our lives,” Akhtarzada, a survivor of the Marwar incident, said.

The demonstration culminated with the adoption of a resolution by the participants, calling on Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar to take suo motu notice of the mine accidents. The resolution demanded Rs2 million compensation for each victim of the incidents.

The resolution said those found guilty of negligence be awarded punishments, mines where such fatal incidents took place be sealed and laws pertaining to safety of miners be implemented.

It urged the government to ratify the Safety and Health in Mines Convention of the International Labour Organisation.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2018