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At least 19 dead in Pakistan marble mine collapse

September 8, 2020

Rescue efforts are continuing, with at least 20 workers still missing. The cause of the accident is still unknown, but fears are growing that the death toll will continue to rise.

Pakistani labourer Muhammad Azeem coming out from a mine for a break
Image: Getty Images/AFP/S. Qayyum

A collapse at a marble mine in a remote area of Pakistan has killed at least 19 people, with rescuers scrambling to search the rubble, officials said on Tuesday.

Boulders of white marble came crashing down on workers on Monday evening in the mountainous Mohmand district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the border with Afghanistan. The marble buried people and blocked the entrance to the mine, trapping people inside for several hours, local police said.

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Between 40 and 50 people were at the site at the time of the collapse, and at least 20 miners are still missing.

The cause of the collapse is still unknown, but there was speculation among local residents that explosives were detonated to extract the marble, triggering a rockslide.

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The actual number of fatalities was unclear because some families took bodies of loved ones directly to their homes from the site, Sameen Shinwari, a doctor at the nearby Ghlanai District Headquarters Hospital, told Reuters. 

Cellular signals and other communication facilities are unreliable in large parts of Mohmand district, including the area where the mine is located.

Deadly incidents are not uncommon in Pakistani mines, which are notorious for hazardous working conditions and poor safety standards. In February, at least 10 workers were killed in a rockslide at a marble quarry in the northwestern district of Buner, and 30 workers were killed in explosions at two coal mines killed in explosions at two coal mines near the southwestern city of Quetta in 2018.

At least 43 miners were killed in Sorange district of Balochistan in 2011 as a result of a blast at a coal mine.

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lc/rt (dpa, Reuters, AP)