South Asia

Pakistan mine gas explosions 'kill 24' in Balochistan

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Media captionOfficials said the mine was declared dangerous two weeks ago

A series of methane gas explosions at a mine in Pakistan's Balochistan province have killed at least 24 workers, officials say.

Rescue workers are trying to reach about 30 other miners who are trapped.

Hopes of rescuing the survivors were fading because of a lack of oxygen, one official told the BBC.

The mine, near the provincial capital, Quetta, was declared dangerous two weeks ago but those warnings were ignored, reports said.

Balochistan is rich in minerals but its mines have a poor safety record.

The blast took place while miners were drilling in the 4,000ft deep coal mine. Workers recovered 10 bodies on Sunday - the victims died of suffocation.

"They had severe burns, which means that the blasts also caused a fire," Mohammad Iftikhar, provincial chief inspector of mines, told AFP news agency.

Bleak outlook

The presence of huge quantities of methane gas in the mine is also hindering the rescue operation.

"We are trying our best to rescue as many workers as we can, but the chance of finding survivors is bleak now," mine inspector Iftikhar Ahmed told the Associated Press news agency.

"They are removing debris and are trying to clear the way to move forward but we are not able to move forward," Balochistan's home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said.

The mine in the remote Sorange district is owned by the state-run Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation, but it was leased to a contractor.

Officials promised action against those responsible for ignoring warnings to stop mining.

Balochistan has been at the centre of a decade-long insurgency with Baloch nationalists demanding more jobs and royalties from the region's natural resources.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi, which is on the border of Balochistan, says the nationalist insurgency hampers immediate access to such remote areas in the restive province.