KUCHING: The three foreign workers who died in the coal mine blast in Selantik, Pantu, Sri Aman, about 130km here, have been identified, according to Sri Aman police chief DSP Mat Jusoh Mohammad on Sunday.
He said the deceased were identified as Tun Tun Win, 36, from Myanmar, North Korean Pang Chung-hyok, 29, and Indonesian Kardianto, 38, adding that their remains were at the Sri Aman hospital.
He said the number of injured has risen to 29, comprising nine Indonesians, six from Myanmar, China (five), North Korea (seven) and Bangladesh (two).
Four are being treated at Sri Aman Hospital and the rest at the Sarawak General Hospital here.
The gas fire ignited at about 450m below the tunnel’s entrance at 8.45am Saturday.
The coal mine, located about 3km from the Kuching-Sri Aman main road, began operations eight years ago.
It has 119 workers and the majority of its workers - 49 - are North Koreans.
The others are Myanmar nationals (29), Indonesians (19), Chinese nationals (15) and Bangladeshis (10).
Sri Aman Fire and Rescue Department chief Ranger Moos said the department received a call at about 11.30am and immediately sent a fire truck with seven firemen to the scene.
“According to the supervisor, the blast occurred when the workers were just about to start work,” he said on Saturday.
“There was an explosion when a switch for the conveyor belt was turned on,” he said, adding that an extractor fan used for expelling gas out of the tunnel was not working.
Sparks from the switch or the defective fan are being looked at as the likely cause of the blast.
The mine has been closed until the department’s hazardous materials (Hazmat) team arrives to determine the safety of the tunnel.