| QUETTA, Pakistan, March 21
QUETTA, Pakistan, March 21 The death toll from
Sunday's methane gas explosions in a coal mine in Pakistan's
southwestern province of Baluchistan rose to 45 on Monday,
government officials said, as hopes faded there would be any
survivors from the disaster.
More than 50 miners were in the mine when three big
explosions triggered by methane gas ripped through the caverns.
"Forty-five miners have died. We have retrieved 25 bodies so
far," Aslam Bizenjo, provincial irrigation minister, told the
Officials said the chances of finding the trapped workers
alive were very slim because of a fire, which had consumed all
the oxygen. Witnesses said the bodies had severe burns from the
The mine, some 35 km (22 miles) from the provincial capital,
Quetta, is owned by the state-run Pakistan Mineral Development
Corporation and was leased to a contractor.
Mohammad Iftikhar, chief inspector of mines in the region,
said the contactor had been asked to shut down the mine two
weeks ago because of an excessive accumulation of methane gas.
Such explosions are not uncommon in coal mines in Pakistan,
most of which are located in Baluchistan and neighbouring Sindh,
where safety measures can be lax.
The country has huge coal reserves estimated at more than
184 billion tonnes. It produces 4 million tonnes of coal
annually, most of which is consumed by brick-making kilns.
(Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and