KUCHING (Borneo Post Online) – Three China nationals died from suspected smoke inhalation after a fire broke out inside a tunnel at a coal mine in Abok, near Pantu, about 80km from Sri Aman yesterday.
Ten other Chinese workers sustained light injuries when the fire was first detected inside the tunnel at 8am, and received treatment at hospitals in Serian and Kuching.
Sri Aman district police chief DSP Mat Jusoh Mohamad confirmed the incident when contacted yesterday, adding that police had classified the deaths of the three victims, who have yet to be identified, as sudden death pending further investigation.
According to him, initial investigation revealed that the fire broke as a result of a spark inside the narrow tunnel, which was filled with naturally-formed gas, sending eight workers inside scrambling for their lives.
“Around 3pm, a second group of five workers went back into the tunnel to check the situation, but fled when they saw the fire was still raging and sustained injuries in their haste to escape.
“It is still unclear if the three fatalities are from the initial group inside the tunnel or the subsequent group which went to check,” said Mat Jusoh.
The trio, he added, died from suspected smoke inhalation, with one succumbing at the Serian hospital and the other two at a private medical centre in Kuching.
He also said that police would be interviewing the coal mine owner to get a clearer picture of the incident.