Published: 2023-04-21 12:43
Last Updated: 2023-09-27 20:56
Three people were killed and four more are missing following an overnight explosion in a coal mine in central Colombia, authorities said on Thursday.
Authorities are investigating what caused the explosion at around 1:00 am in the Cucunuba municipality in Cundinamarca, around 90 kilometers north of the capital Bogota.
Colombia's Red Cross said "three lifeless bodies" had been pulled from the mine and that four more miners remained trapped inside but it did not know if they were still alive.
"The truth is there is no hope (of finding them alive), there is a lot of (carbon) monoxide" in the mine, said Amparo Pachon, the partner of one of the missing miners.
A buildup of gases is the most common cause of mining accidents in the country, which is Latin America's largest coal producer.
Four more people were rescued from the mine in the early morning "and were evaluated and taken to various health centers," said Alvaro Farfan, fire captain for the Cundinamarca department.
Videos shared on social media showed smoke billowing from a sinkhole in the dead of night while people dressed in civilian clothes carrying torches approached carefully.
"I was sleeping and I heard two explosions (that) shook the house, the windows," Ana Julia Garzon, a 52-year-old miner who lives close to the mine, told AFP.
"The whole community is sad ... here we all live off mining."
Cundinamarca Governor Nicolas Garcia said the explosion affected the interconnected El Roble and El Manto mines.
The department is a hotbed of illegal mining, but Garcia told Caracol Television that the accident happened "in an area with authorization for traditional mining."
However, he said authorities were verifying whether or not the mines were in compliance with mining legislation.
Mining tragedies are frequent in Colombia, particularly in illegal mines in Cundinamarca and other parts of the country's center and northeast.
Mines and Energy Minister Irene Velez said on Twitter that rescuers were working in the area to find the trapped miners.
The mines and energy ministry registered 1,262 such accidents between 2011 and May 2022 that left an average of more than 100 people dead per year.
An explosion in mid-March in Sutatausa municipality, also in Cundinamarca, left 21 people dead and was one of the worst such tragedies in Colombia in recent years.