Treasure-hunters buried alive in Paraguay

Asuncion -

Three men hunting for legendary treasure in Paraguay were trapped deep underground and assumed dead after the earth suddenly caved in around them, police said on Monday.

“A rescue is humanly impossible. It is unlikely they are alive,” firefighter Daniel Aquino told reporters about the trio that went illegally digging at the weekend in Aregua, about 30km outside the capital Asuncion.

The men - aged 64, 52, and 28 - and who did not have a permit for the dig, fell victim to the cave-in on Sunday when they were about 50m underground.

Locals have long been obsessed with legend that during the 1864-1870 War of the Triple Alliance 10 000kg of gold was stashed away somewhere in the capital area to keep it from being looted by outside forces.

Historians have shrugged off the story.

But it captures many people's imagination in the largely rural, poor South American country. And the digging goes on.

The war pitted Paraguay against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Most of Paraguay's men - about 85 percent - were wiped out in the conflict. - Sapa-AFP