Death toll rises to 45 from Pakistan coal mine blast
ISLAMABAD, March 21 (Xinhua) — A Pakistani official confirmed Monday that 45 miners have died in a coal mine gas explosion in the country’s southwestern Balochistan province.
Balochistan Minister for Irrigation, Aslam Bizenjo, told the provincial assembly that 45 miners have been confirmed dead while 24 bodies have been recovered. The operation is underway to pull other bodies out of the rubbles.
Bizenjo said that the rescue operation may take several more hours to take the trapped miners out of the pit since Sunday morning.
The rescue team said they have rescued four injured miners. Troops have also been called out to help in rescue operation as hopes for the remaining trapped miners are diminishing.
Earlier reports suggested that there were 52 miners working at different levels of the mine, which are about 61 meters to 305 meters deep underground, when the disaster happened.
Balochistan’s Minister for Mines, Rehman Mengal, told local Dawn TV that the provincial government had asked the state-run Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC), which owns the mine, to shut it because of dangerous environment and lack of safety measures.
Reports said the explosion occurred as gas accumulated due to poor ventilation in the mine.
Mengal said the provincial authorities had asked for the closure of the mine at Sorange area, some 35 kilometers from Quetta, the provincial capital, after an earlier blast claimed 15 lives.
The Balochistan assembly Monday debated the issue and several provincial lawmakers demanded action against the PMDC for ignoring the government’s instructions to close the mine. They called for a detailed debate to determine as to what caused the blast and who are responsible for the lack of safety measures.
Miners have also complained about lack of proper security measures in the mine and the authorities do not have required machinery for rescue operation.
Balochistan has huge reservoirs of natural resources including the country’s largest gas field, which provides gas to other parts of the energy-hungry country.