The death toll of the San Fernando Antioquia coal mine explosion reaches 54, as Colombian rescue workers continue to work to evacuate the bodies of an estimated 20 miners, Colombia’s Institute for Geology and Mining (Ingeominas) told Efe Wednesday.
Rescue workers expect to find the remaining trapped miners in a deep section of the mine, around 2.6 kilometers below the entrance. Landslides deep within the mine hinder rescue workers’ progress but it is hoped that those who remain will be evacuated within the next few days.
Authorities say it is unlikely that any survivors will be found.
A massive explosion which destroyed the mine on June 17, is thought to have been caused by a build-up of methane gas. A government-led investigation was opened Monday, to identify the exact cause of the disaster.
At the time of the explosion, which occurred during a shift change, there were reportedly 160 people in the mine shaft, of which 90 escaped and about 70 were trapped.
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 trapping five people, one of whom died.
According to Efe, there are 20 legal coal mines and 120 illegal ones operating in the central Antioquia department.