At least 10 people have been killed and many others are feared trapped inside a coal mine in the Indian state of Jharkhand after a section of the mine collapsed, police say.

A massive mound of earth caved in late on Thursday at the Lalmatia open-cast mine, burying at least 23 miners and dozens of vehicles as hundreds of workers battled overnight to rescue them.

"Up till now, 10 bodies have been recovered after two more were pulled out. Coal mine authorities believe that there may be two or three more bodies inside," RK Mallick, Jharkhand police spokesperson, told AFP news agency.

Some of the workers had escaped the disaster site following the collapse, Mallick said, with unconfirmed media reports putting the number trapped at 50.

Police and emergency workers used sniffer dogs, earth movers and their bare hands to remove giant rocks and mangled, overturned trucks to locate the trapped workers under tons of earth.

 

Officials said that rescue operations had to be delayed until Friday morning because of bad weather, including poor visibility due to fog.

Raghubar Das, Jharkhand chief minister, said he was "monitoring the situation closely" and that he had "asked concerned officials to intensify rescue operations".

The mine is operated by the government-owned Eastern Coalfields Limited.

Its top official, Niladri Roy, told AFP that more than 250 metres of the mine collapsed as workers headed towards the exit around 7:30 pm (14:00GMT) on Thursday.

There was no immediate explanation for the collapse, but the government has launched an investigation into the "unprecedented" incident.

Dozens of vehicles and machinery were covered and trapped under piles of debris, officials said.

Jharkand is one of India's poorest states. Almost 40 percent of its population lives beneath the poverty line while more than half of the states' districts have poverty levels that exceed 40 percent.

It is also one of the richest mineral zones in India, accounting for around 29 percent of the country's coal deposits.

In 2015, India recorded 38 deaths across 570 mining sites.

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Source: News agencies