Seven killed in Pakistani region's second coal mine blast in a week

QUETTA, PAKISTAN (REUTERS) - Seven miners were killed in a blast at a coal mine in the south-western Pakistani province of Balochistan on Monday night (March 15), the second such deadly incident in the region in a week.

A build-up of methane gas in the mine in the Torghar gas field in the district of Harnai caused an explosion as the workers were inside, Deputy Commissioner Sohail Anwar Hashmi told Reuters.

"Rescue teams recovered the bodies of all seven coal miners this morning, who burned to death as a huge fire broke out in the mine after the blast," Chief Inspector of Mines Shafqat Fayyaz told Reuters.

Mr Fayyaz said the workers who lost their lives were working at a depth of about 1,500 feet (457m) when the explosion occurred, adding that the mine has been closed and a probe has been ordered into the incident.

Last Friday, eight miners were trapped around 305m below ground in a mine in the district of Marwar, near the border with Afghanistan, when a build-up of methane gas exploded.

Six workers were killed and two other rescued.

Sparsely populated and impoverished Balochistan is home to large deposits of coal, natural gas, copper and gold, many of which are being extracted by Chinese-backed operations.

Separatist militants often target workers and security forces.

In the past year, 102 coal miners have been killed in Balochistan in 72 different incidents, according to Sultan Muhammad Lala, president of the Balochistan Coal Mines Workers Federation.

Lacking proper safety measures in the mines, workers have repeatedly been killed in explosions caused by the accumulation of methane gas.

At least 27 workers died in two separate incidents in Balochistan in 2018, and 45 were killed in an explosion at a coal mine in the province in 2011.