YANGON—Four workers were killed and four others were injured in an oxygen cylinder explosion in a coal pit near Kyet Pa Nat village tract in Sagaing Region’s Kale Township on Monday, according to township police.
The oxygen cylinder exploded at around 11.30 pm at Htoo Han Thit Co.’s coal mining field No. 1, some 16 miles northeast of Kale, township police station chief Police Captain Htay Win confirmed to The Irrawaddy.
The police station has opened a case regarding the incident, he said.
“We have apparatus for producing oxygen in the pit. Gas from [the apparatus] ignited when exposed to a flame from mining activity,” said pit worker Saw Thae Oo, who escaped the accident as he had left the pit some 30 minutes before the explosion for health reasons.
“I want the company to assume responsibility for those killed and injured,” he added. According to Kale Police Station, the victims were aged 18, 21, 22 and 27.
Local labor rights activist Ma Ei Ei Khaing said mining companies largely ignore safety regulations, especially in cases where a company that signed a contract with the government has transferred operations to another company.
“When the original companies lease out the mines to third parties, [the third parties] don’t strictly follow safety regulations. They only care about mining coal. As a result, such incidents happen frequently,” she said.
On May 19, five Myanmar workers and a Chinese technician were injured in a methane gas explosion at a coal pit in Sagaing Region’s Kalewa Township.
A manager at the company involved in that incident said the firm provided compensation to the injured.
Lower House Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee chairman Dr. Soe Thura Tun said, “These things happen because not enough attention is given to worksite safety. Only harsh punishments for such explosions will act as a deterrent. There are strict safety regulations for coalmines. We have also issued directives.”
In August 2018, five miners trapped in a coal pit collapse in Kalewa died due to lack of oxygen. According to local media, the collapse was caused by a methane gas explosion on Aug. 2.
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