Orakzai coalmine disaster


WEB DESK:A coalmine in Doli area of the Orakzai tribal region was the scene of the tragic accident on Saturday evening. Eight coalminers were killed and 36 suffered injuries when a blast brought the place collapsing on them.

One of the 10 critically injured died on the way to a government hospital in Kohat.Those who survived had the Army and the Frontier constabulary men to thank for carrying out timely rescue work and pulling them out to safety. The mine, it seems, had no proper rescue arrangements of its own. Had the soldiers not been there to offer help the number of casualties could have been much higher.

So far it is not known what caused the accident. According to a press report, even after 24 hours it was unclear what might have triggered the blast. What is known, however, is that miners work under primitive conditions in most of the coalmines located in different parts of the tribal areas and Balochistan. They are owned by tribal sardars or middle level businessmen, most of whom have shown little interest in making any improvements. They remain focused on using money saving practices at the expense of workers’ safety which, in fact, can help increase efficiency as well.Those familiar with the situation say even the tools used are archaic.

Consequently, accidents are commonplace. Two years ago, 15 miners were killed in a gas explosion accident in a Balochistan coalmine, and three years earlier another 45 lives perished in a coalmine located in the Surran range not far from Quetta. These accidents often are the result of the use of cheap and obsolete techniques of coal extraction.

Unfortunately, however, the concerned authorities have not taken any measures to improve safety in the mines. The relevant laws are as archaic as are the extraction practices prevalent in the sector. It is about time the government take serious notice of the situation and do something about it. There is a lot that can be learnt from the experience of other countries to avert accidents.

First of all, the relevant laws need to be updated to make working conditions less harsh and improve the miners’ tools. And of course, the owners must make proper provisions for rescuing workers in the event of accidents. Needless to say, when an accident occurs, time is of essence.

In the present incident, the soldiers happened to be nearby because of the ongoing operations in the tribal areas, and hence were able to save precious lives.Which underscores the need for the government to launch an inquiry into the incident to find out if the Doli area mine had the requisite system in place to deal with the disaster, if not why not? Allowing things to go back to business as usual will only bring more such tragedies every now and then.