Pakistan mine blast toll rises to 45

March 21st, 2011 - 5:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, March 21 (IANS) The toll in a coal mine explosion in southwest Pakistan’s Balochistan province rose to 45 Monday, a minister said, as hopes of finding any survivors faded.

At least 52 miners were present in the coal mine in Sorrange area, 40 km from provincial capital Quetta, when the blast took place Sunday. The mine is owned by the Pakistan Mineral Development Corp. and was leased to a private contractor.

“Forty-five miners have died. We have retrieved 25 bodies so far,” Dawn News quoted Aslam Bizenjo, provincial irrigation minister, as telling the assembly.

The miners were trapped in the mine’s different levels, which are 200-1,000 feet underground.

Officials said chances of finding the trapped workers alive were very bleak because of a fire inside the mine that had consumed all the available oxygen.

Mohammad Iftikhar, chief inspector of mines in the region, said the contractor had been asked to shut it down two weeks ago because of excessive accumulation of methane gas, but the warning was ignored.

Pakistan has huge coal reserves estimated at more than 184 billion tonnes. The country produces four million tonnes of coal annually.

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