Posted by Cameron Sumpter on Jun 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Health warning for coal mine disaster town

colombia, mine

Authorities in Antioquia are warning of the risk of disease spreading in the area around the San Fernando coal mine, where an accident killed dozens of miners, as decomposing bodies are still trapped underground, reports AFP.

John Fredy Rendon, who is directing the rescue operation, said that the precautionary measures being advised for residents of the town of Amaga are “an early warning, which does not mean that there is a health emergency.”

Rendon said that the measures were “necessary because as the days pass, there is more likely to be a presence of an epidemiological situation brought by the decomposing bodies.”

So far 38 bodies have been recovered from the mine, according to Rendon, who added that it was not possible to predict when the rescue operation would be completed, due to difficulties in extracting the bodies.

A government-led investigation was opened Monday, to identify what caused the explosion, which has trapped between 50 and 70 miners.

On Sunday Uribe met with family members of the deceased and trapped miners and pledged to provide for them. According to Uribe, local and national authorities have guaranteed the families the full support of the government, ensuring that they continue to receive salary payments and health care benefits.

This is the second accident at the San Fernando mine in three years. A similar incident occurred in 2008 with five people trapped, one of whom died.

The director of the Valle del Cauca Mining Association (Gremivalle), Marco Aurelio Hurtado, said that the San Fernando tragedy is a warning bell for Colombia and its mining industry.