The director of the rescue operation, John Freddy Rendon, said that it was not possible to identify four of the bodies due to their condition, caused by the massive explosion that destroyed the mine late Wednesday night, which is thought to have been caused by a build-up of methane gas.
Rendon said rescue workers hope to reach the place where a further 40 miners are believed to be trapped within the next few hours, and promised to provide the miners’ families with two hourly updates.
According to authorities, conditions within the mine are favorable to continue rescue work to evacuate the remaining miners, although it is most likely, El Tiempo reported, that the miners suffocated due to the toxic gases released by the explosion.
Rendon agreed that it was unlikely that anyone would be found alive four days after the explosion and said “the only real possibility is that one or several miners were trapped between two cave-ins created during the explosion and they have an oxygen source.”
This is the second accident at the San Fernando mine in three years. A similar incident occurred in 2008, in which five people were trapped, one of whom died.
The Antioquia secretary of mining, Nicolas Lopez, said there had been an oversight in the law, meaning that mines such as San Fernando were not required to install gas detectors, which could prevent such incidents from occurring.
Carbones San Fernando S.A, the company that runs the mine, said that in order to avoid further tragedies, it will work with the Antioquia secretary of mining, the national professional education service SENA and the Universidad Nacional to develop a pilot project to install an early warning system to prevent further fires and explosions. COP 300 million (around $150,000) will be invested in the project.
Minister of Mining and Energy Hernan Martinez said Carbones San Fernando will assume responsibility for the explosion and is expected to pay COP 1.2 billion (around $600,000) in compensation to the victims families.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said that the mine should be closed for two weeks while investigation into the cause of the explosion are carried out.
On Sunday Uribe met with family members of the deceased and trapped miners and pledged to provide for the families and ensure their financial well being. According to Uribe, local and national authorities have agreed to guarantee the families the full support of the government, ensuring that they continue to receive salary payments and health care benefits.
Martinez announced on Friday that the Institute for Geology and Mining (Ingeominas) would be conducting a full investigation into the suspected shortfalls in safety regulations at the San Fernando coal mine. He also said that he believes that the mine did not fulfill safety requirements.