12 killed, 8 rescued after coal mine collapses in Harnai district

Published March 20, 2024
Miners gather outside a collapsed mine as rescue personnel conduct a search operation for trapped workers after a gas explosion rocked the private coal pit in Harnai district. — Mines and Minerals Development Department Balochistan via AFP
Miners gather outside a collapsed mine as rescue personnel conduct a search operation for trapped workers after a gas explosion rocked the private coal pit in Harnai district. — Mines and Minerals Development Department Balochistan via AFP

Twelve miners were killed and eight rescued after an explosion in a coal mine in the Zardalo area of Balochistan’s Harnai district, officials said on Wednesday.

Earlier, it was reported that 18 miners were trapped after a big portion of the mine caved in when a powerful explosion took place. The directorate of chief inspector of mines had said that teams launched a rescue operation.

“The rescue operation has been just completed,” said Balochistan chief inspector of mines Abdul Ghani Baloch on Wednesday morning.

He said that 20 miners had been inside the mine when a methane gas explosion took place overnight. He added that rescue teams recovered 12 bodies while the survivors had been taken to hospital.

“Two bodies were recovered during the night, with the remaining 10 retrieved early in the morning,” Baloch told AFP.

However, Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti stated on social media platform X that the number of rescued miners was six.

Abdullah Shahwani, the province’s director general of mining, also confirmed the death toll.

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

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

According to Radio Pakistan, the premier directed that all possible medical treatment be provided to the injured miners.

CM Bugti termed the rescue operation “very risky”, adding that “unregulated mining in Balochistan is a big problem”.

In a post on X, he said the provincial government would soon “announce and implement policies to protect miners”.

Terming such incidents as “very painful and sad”, he said the government would provide all possible relief to the injured and affected families.

National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Deputy Speaker Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah also expressed their grief on the incident.

Conveying their condolences to the bereaved families, they prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.

Past incidents

Coal deposits are found in the western areas of Pakistan that sit near the Afghan border and mine accidents are common, mainly due to gas build-ups.

Mine workers have complained that a lack of safety gear and poor working conditions are the key causes of frequent accidents, labour union officials have said in the past.

“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.”

In December, two coal miners were killed and three injured when a fire broke out in a private mine in Balochistan’s Duki coal field.

In September last year, three workers were buried under the rubble of a coal mine in Sindh’s Jamshoro when a mine caved in.

Earlier the same year, a coal miner was killed and three received burn injuries in a methane gas explosion in a mine in the Duki coal field.

A year ago, at least six miners were killed in a gas explosion inside a coal mine in the Harnai district.

In May 2018, 23 people were killed and 11 more wounded after gas explosions tore through two neighbouring coal mines in the same region.

A total of 43 workers also died in 2011 when gas explosions triggered a collapse in another Balochistan colliery.

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