Colombian President Alvaro Uribe met on Saturday with families of the victims of the San Fernando coal mine blast that killed at least 19 and trapped more than 50 miners, and vowed that the government would take care of them.
“We will make every effort to ensure that you do not feel unprotected,” Uribe told the family members of the deceased and trapped coal miners in the rural Antioquian town of Amaga.
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.
Alongside Uribe, Antioquian governor Luis Alfredo Ramos announced that at the time of the blast on Wednesday, there were 71 workers in the coal mine, of which 19 are confirmed dead, and their bodies have recovered, leaving 52 workers still trapped underground.
Speaking on the rescue efforts of the trapped miners, whose chances of survival are minimal, according to Colombia’s director of the National Disaster and Emergency Center, Uribe said that “The rescue efforts continue.”
“There are enough human resources and technical teams there. They are now bringing in some fans that were unfortunately not in place before, the national government is bringing them in on an air force plane,” Uribe explained, but admitted to the families that he “must confess,” that given the situation,”one feels very helpless.”
The fans Uribe refers to appear to be gas extractor fans, which, alongside gas detectors, were pieces of equipment that the coal mine lacked at the time of the blast, according to initial reports. Reports also stated that the explosion was caused by a build-up of methane gas.
On Friday, Colombia’s Mining Minister Hernan Martinez said that the government’s 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.
Around 600 miners work in the San Fernando mine, which saw a similar incident a year and a half ago, in which five people were trapped, one of whom died.