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QUETTA: Ten miners remained trapped more than a kilometre below ground on Monday night, over 24 hours after a fire started by a short circuit in a coal mine in Balochistan’s Degari field, some 60 kilometres east of Quetta, led to its collapse.

A rescue operation to evacuate the trapped miners was in progress, but the efforts were hampered as the fire spread poisonous carbon monoxide gas inside the mine.

According to sources, 11 miners were working around 4,000 feet underground late on Sunday when the accident happened. They said lethal methane gas filled the chamber near the entrance and caused its collapse.

Just one of the miners had been rescued till late Monday night while the operation was under way to rescue the remaining miners. The rescued miner had gone inside the mine after hearing a blast and fell unconscious.

Ten members of a rescue team of the Provincial Disas­ter Management Authority (PDMA), who went inside the mine, fell unconscious due to the presence of methane gas. Official sources said that another team of the PDMA rescued their unconscious colleagues.

“Rescue operation is in progress,” PDMA Director General Imran Zarkoon said, adding that the PDMA was making all-out efforts along with workers of the Chief Inspector of Mines Directorate for rescue of trapped coalminers.

Agencies add: A senior official, Abdullah Shahwani, told AFP that “hopes of their survival are very slim as rescue workers have reached only 1,200 feet inside the mine,” he said, roughly 20 hours after the accident occurred.

The spread of carbon monoxide was hampering the attempt to reach the miners, said rescuer Mohammad Shafqat, who spoke to AFP from the site.

Another official told AP that the rescued miner was closer to the surface when the explosion took place at a depth of about 4,000 feet and the mine partially caved in.

He said he was hopeful the 10 trapped miners would be rescued.

Most coal mines in Balochistan are notorious for poor safety standards and facilities, and similar deadly accidents have occurred in the past.

Poor working conditions inside coal mines in the province often claim lives of miners in areas like Harnai, Sowrange, Dukki, Mach and other parts of the province.

The Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PCMLF), the organisation works for protection of miners’ rights, calls for improvement in working conditions inside coal mines.

The PCMLF reportedly claims that between 100 and 200 labourers die on average in coal mine accidents every year.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2019