Colombian authorities fear that some 70 miners may have been killed in an explosion in San Fernando coal mine in the north-western department of Antioquia. By Thursday afternoon, the corpses of 18 miners had been recovered.
At least 70 miners are still trapped beneath tons of rubble after the explosion on Wednesday just before midnight. According to press agency Reuters, rescue workers say they may need four or five days to find all the trapped miners.
Civil Defense chief Juan Carlos Posada told French press agency AFP late Thursday afternoon that so far only one miner has been found alive and that all the victims were severely burnt in high temperatures caused by the explosion.
A build-up of toxic gases hampered search and rescue efforts, but a team entered the mine Thursday afternoon and were able to make it 180 yards inside, he said.
Earlier on Thursday, President Alvaro Uribe expressed his “pain” over the tragic accident and said “my soul is transported to Amaga.” The head of state asked the Antioquia secretary of mining to confirm if the San Fernando mine had passed legal inspections and abided by health and safety regulations.
The mayor of Amaga stated that the operation “is a legally constructed mine, but unfortunately mining is a high risk job.”
Luz Amanda Pulido, director of disaster prevention, said the hope of finding survivors among the 53 men still believed to be inside was “not much, almost nothing.”