Death toll rises to 10 in mine disaster

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THE STAR

File photo: Nokuthula Mbatha

Santander De Quilichao, Colombia - Rescue workers recovered more bodies on Saturday of people killed in a landslide at an illegal gold mine in western Colombia, raising the death toll to 10, with an additional six feared dead.

Miners had been laboring with hand tools to extract gold from the open pit mine when it was hit by an avalanche of mud, rock and earth on Wednesday.

The mine employed local men and women, sometimes from the same families, but neither the workers nor the facility were properly credentialed.

“Today, we located seven bodies; those of four men and three women. And we still have six people missing,” said Juan Sandoval, a civil defense spokesman in the Cauca department town of Santander de Quilichao.

Three bodies had been found earlier, so the fatalities stand at 10.

“The bodies all were located close to one another. Many of them were there with their shovels,” Sandoval added.

Colombia has upwards of 14 000 mines, more than half of which operate without proper permits, officials said. The government even has confiscated heavy excavation equipment at some illegal sites.

It was the second mining accident in Colombia in less than a week.

Last Saturday in the northwestern department of Antioquia, four miners died from inhaling toxic gas in an unlicensed mine.

Colombia has upwards of 14 000 mines, more than half of which operate without proper permits, officials said. The government even has confiscated heavy excavation equipment at some illegal sites. - Sapa-AFP


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