QUETTA - Twenty-three people were killed and 11 wounded after gas explosions tore through two neighbouring coalmines near Quetta, officials said Sunday.

Shortly before midday on Saturday, a build-up of methane caused an explosion and tunnel collapse at a mine in Marwaarh, east of Quetta.

Jawaid Anwar Shahwani, the top government official in Quetta, said 16 of the 25 people inside the mine at the time were killed, with the remaining miners rescued and taken to hospital for treatment.

Around three hours later, a mine 25 kilometres to the west at Spin Carez collapsed in similar circumstances, killing seven of the nine miners inside.

Commissioner Quetta Division Jawaid Anwar Shahwani said about 16 bodies of mine workers were pulled out from the coalmine by local rescue teams including law enforcement agencies after hectic efforts under monitoring of provincial officials. Nine workers were rescued at the moment.

The bodies and the injured were rushed to Bolan Medical Complex (BMC) Hospital where the injured, as per the hospital sources, are stated to be in better condition.

Nine bodies were identified as Reheem, Muhammad Basheer, Abdul Waheed, Khalid, Nasrullah, Abdulla Khan, Abdul Haq, Liaqat Ai and Abdul Latif.

Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) including Frontier Corps, Levies force and police were trying to rescue other victims from the coalmines.

The rescue operation continued till Sunday morning in both coalmines in which bodies of five more labourers were found from second damaged of the coalmine.

The most of victims were reported to be residents of Swat’s Shangla area.

After the incident, members of Mines Labour Federation protested the deaths of coalminers in Sooranj and Marwar, demanding the provincial government to take strict action against owners in order to prevent such incidents in future.

They held a demonstration outside Quetta Press Club on Sunday. They also demanded the government to ensure safety measures for labourers during working inside all the coalmines in the province.

The protesters also demanded Rs 2 million compensation for each bereaved family.

Balochistan Mines Minister Saleh Baloch told AFP that all miners in both accidents had been accounted for and rescue operations had ended.

Country’s mines are notorious for poor safety standards and bad ventilation.

A total of 43 workers died in 2011 when gas explosions triggered a collapse in another Balochistan colliery, also owned by the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation.

Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces by area but its roughly seven million people have long argued they do not get a fair share of its vast gas and mineral wealth.