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updated: 9/15/2013 7:12 AM

24 Afghans die as tunnel collapses in coal mine

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Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A tunnel collapsed in a coal mine in Afghanistan's north, killing at least 24 workers and leaving three others missing, officials said Sunday. Some 14 area residents trying to aid in the rescue were overcome by fumes and had to get treatment.

Workplace safety standards are poor in Afghanistan as in many developing nations, and such accidents are common. But concern about such standards is likely to grow in the coming years as the government tries to develop a wealth of mineral resources in the country -- a challenging goal as it battles a Taliban insurgency.

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The mine tunnel collapse occurred Saturday around 2 p.m. in Ruyi Du Ab district of Samangan province, a remote area where the insurgency does not have a significant presence yet. Aminullah, a police official who like many Afghans goes by one name, says more than 1,000 villagers in the area rushed to the scene, using their hands, shovels and other tools to try to dig out the workers.

Akram Baigzad, the provincial police chief, said 24 bodies had been recovered of a total of 27 workers. Fumes left around 14 rescuers with breathing problems, but none died as a result, he said.

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