Pakistani authorities said Saturday they have now retrieved 18 bodies after a blast tore through a coal mine in southwest Pakistan earlier this week, including two rescuers who entered after the explosion.
The mine caved in after workers used dynamite during an excavation in Sinjidi, some 45 kilometres (28 miles) east of Quetta, the capital of oil and gas rich Balochistan province.
Rescue teams had pulled nine workers alive from different tunnels while eight had been found dead at the depth of 800 feet (240 metres).
“We later found bodies of another eight miners, who were buried at the depth of 4,000 feet (1,219 metres), provincial chief mines inspector Muhammad Iftikhar told AFP.
He said two of the five volunteers who entered the mine to rescue trapped workers despite warnings by authorities also lost their lives.
“We pulled out all the five volunteers who were badly affected by poisonous gases in the mine. Two of them died on their way to hospital while three others are currently hospitalised in Quetta,” Iftikhar said.
A senior local government official in Quetta also confirmed the new toll of 18.
While the use of dynamite in the mines is officially prohibited, miners often use the explosive to quickly excavate coal.
In a similar incident, at least 43 miners were killed in Sorange district of Balochistan in 2011.
Coal mines in the impoverished province are notorious for poor safety standards.
Rich in mineral wealth, Balochistan is plagued by Islamist and separatist insurgencies who have long complained locals do not benefit enough from the region’s natural resources.
Hundreds of people have died in the violence since 2004.