Five Bosnian coal miners have died while 29 others have been pulled out alive after an earthquake triggered a gas explosion and tunnel collapse, trapping dozens of men underground for 20 hours, officials have said.

"This accident is a big tragedy for the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Unfortunately five lives were lost," regional governor Nermin Niksic said on Friday.

The accident occurred in the Raspotocje mine in the suburbs of Zenica, in central Bosnia, which was hit on Thursday by a 3.5-magnitude earthquake.

The 29 rescued men, visibly exhausted and covered in dirt, emerged into daylight on Friday after rescue crews broke through to the gallery 600-metres underground where they had been sheltering.

According to Al Jazeera Balkans families of the trapped miners and medical personnel gathered outside the mine waiting for the rescue operation to end.

Some trapped miners were carried on stretchers while others walked with the help of rescuers.

Twenty-six of the workers were taken to a hospital, six of them badly hurt, but none suffered life-threatening injuries, the Associated Press news agency quoted doctors as saying.

Notorious for accidents

Mine expert Nuraga Duranovic said the bodies of the four victims were seen by their rescued comrades while the fifth one was reported missing.

He was a young man who had started to work in the mine three days ago, Duranovic told reporters.

Rescue operations were called off late Friday, "but we will go down tomorrow again," Duranovic said.

The coal mines around Zenica, northwest of the capital Sarajevo, are notorious for deadly accidents.

It was the third incident at the Zenica pits this year, underscoring the vulnerability of the mines in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans, which are generally poorly secured and where miners work with outdated equipment and little protection.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies