KUCHING, Nov 23, 2014:

Eleven victims of a coal mine explosion, which left three workers dead in Selantik, Pantu in Sri Aman Division yesterday, are still at the intensive care unit of the Sarawak General Hospital (HUS) here.

According to an HUS staff, their condition was critical but stable, and that they suffered breathing difficulties.

Another seven victims were recuperating in a regular ward, he said today.

Apart from HUS, three other victims have been warded at the Sri Aman Hospital, and five more were in two private hospitals here.

The workers killed in the 9am explosion at Selantik were identified as Indonesian national Kardianto, 38, North Korean Pang Chung Hyok, 29, and Myanmar Tun Tun Win, 29.

The bodies, currently kept at the Sri Aman Hospital, will be transferred to HUS for post-mortem tomorrow.

The other injured workers comprise North Koreans, Indonesians, Myanmar nationals, Chinese nationals and Bangladeshis.

The blast was believed to have been caused by sparks from a faulty fan that ignited a gas fire, causing an explosion in a 69-metre deep tunnel at the mine.

The mine, located about three kilometres from the Sri Aman main road, had been in operation for eight years. It has 119 foreign workers — North Koreans (46), Indonesians (19), Myanmar (29), Chinese (15) and Bangladeshi (10).

The Fire and Rescue Department has ordered the temporary closure of the coal mine.

Sri Aman Fire and Rescue Station chief Ranger Moos said the order was issued after the Hazmat (harzardous materials and items) team had identified the gas leakage and the type of gas in the tunnel.

“At 8.30 last night, five members of the Hazmat team entered the tunnel up to 260 metres inside and detected methane gas,” he said when contacted today.

Ranger said following the discovery, an order to temporarily close the mine was issued, leaving no worker on duty to look after the water pump.

“The water pump is meant to remove water from the tunnel but when the water pump is not in operation, the tunnel will be filled with water, which neutralises the gas in the tunnel.

Asked when the investigation into the mine explosion would begin, Ranger said the department had not been informed yet when the mining company’s engineers would arrive to determine whether the tunnel’s structure was safe for personnel to enter.

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