Mine explosion leaves 32 dead in Colombia | VailDaily.com

Mine explosion leaves 32 dead in Colombia

SARDINATA, Colombia – An explosion tore through a makeshift coal mine in remote northeast Colombia on Saturday, killing 32 miners, a civil defense official said.Rescue crews had located the bodies buried more than 1,300 feet below ground but were unable to safely remove them, said Yesid Arias, who was helping to coordinate the operation.Officials had previously reported that three miners were dead and 28 were missing at the mine in the remote hamlet of San Roque, 255 miles northeast of Bogota.”We have orders to work through the night and recover the bodies as quickly as possible, but unfortunately there’s still plenty of trapped methane gas that’s making it unsafe for work crews to stay underground for any extended period of time,” Arias said.Family members, who had rushed to the mine shortly after the Saturday morning explosion, had been relocated to the town of Sardinata 15 minutes away, where they were awaiting news about loved ones.”We never imagined this was going to happen,” Luis Octavio Acosta, the brother of two miners, told The Associated Press hours earlier before the fate of the trapped miners was known.The morning explosion was caused by “some spark and the gas that was inside” the mine, said Fernando Rosales, director of civil defense in Norte de Santander state.Earlier in the day, authorities pleaded on Caracol Radio for a gas extractor to help remove large quantities of trapped methane.Norte de Santander, where the mine is located, is one of Colombia’s most violent-stricken states, an area overrun by leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups who often battle each other for control of lucrative drug smuggling routes across the border with Venezuela.Many mines in this Andean nation are makeshift affairs with few or no safety procedures.In January 2006, three self-employed coal miners – a 60-year-old father and his two sons – died at a mine in the same region after inhaling poisonous gases.Other mine disasters in Colombia have been the result of landslides and erosion.In 2001, at least 37 gold miners were killed after a hillside gave way and swept over them at a strip mine located 120 miles west of Bogota. The mine had been shut down earlier in the year because erosion made it unstable.

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