QUETTA, PAKISTAN // At least seven miners were killed and 41 others trapped underground when explosions triggered a collapse in a coal mine in Pakistan's Baluchistan province yesterday, officials said.
A total of 48 miners were working around 1,200 metres underground in the mine and officials said the chances of the missing surviving were slim.
The mine in the remote Sorange district was poorly ventilated, which allowed poisonous and flammable gases to accumulate and the result was the three blasts, they said.
Mushtaq Raisani, the Baluchistan secretary of mines and minerals, told reporters at the site that rescue workers had recovered seven bodies so far.
"There is a huge quantity of methane gas inside the mine. The operation may take two days," he said.
Mr Raisani said rescue work, which was postponed earlier because some of the emergency crew had been left unconscious by the noxious fumes, had been resumed and military experts and engineers have been called in to help.
"They are removing debris and are trying to clear the way to move forward but yet we are not able to move forward," he said. He went on to say that the mine operators had ignored previous warnings to stop operations at the site.
Earlier Mohammad Iftikhar, the provincial chief inspector of mines, said efforts to rescue the trapped miners had been severely hampered by the choking gas.
"Miners died of suffocation, still a huge quantity of gas is causing difficulties in the rescue work," he said.
"Some of the rescue team members fell unconscious due to the huge presence of poisonous gas inside. Their colleagues managed to bring them to the surface."
The coal mine is run by the government-owned Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation.
Rich in minerals, Baluchistan is plagued by an insurgency blamed on nationalist tribesmen demanding more jobs and royalties from the region's natural resources. Hundreds of people have died in the violence since 2004.
Most coal mines in the impoverished province are notorious for poor safety standards and facilities.
Similar deadly accidents have occurred in the past.