Colombian authorities successfully recovered the remaining bodies early Friday morning from the site of the San Fernando coal mine disaster, bringing the final toll to 73 dead, reports Caracol Radio.
According to John Fredy Rendon, who was in charge of the rescue operation, “There were an average of 420 people per day supporting the rescue efforts, providing psychological attention, identifying victims, providing logistical support … We would also like to highlight the help received from the national police and the army which has been of the utmost importance.”
The rescue mission for the 73 trapped miners was temporarily suspended Thursday afternoon because conditions were deemed too dangerous to continue, with threats of collapse and gas concentrations which could cause further explosions.
The massive explosion, which blasted the mine on June 17 in the town of Amaga in the Antioquia department, is thought to have been caused by a build-up of methane gas. A government-led investigation was opened Monday.
At the time of the explosion, which occurred during a shift change, there were 163 people in the mine shaft, of whom 90 escaped and 73 were trapped.
On Sunday, Colombian President Alvaro 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.