22 killed as mine collapses in Colombia

 

A landslide triggered by residents digging for rumoured deposits of gold has killed at least 22 people and injured 26 more, at an abandoned mine in southern Colombia, authorities said.

Seven of those injured in the incident last night were in serious condition, Cauca provincial governor Juan Jose Chaux said in a statement.

The search for survivors at the mine, located near the town of Suarez, 220 miles south-west of Bogota, was suspended last night because of darkness and bad weather, which made the open pit mine unsafe.

It was unclear how many people were missing, but police earlier said about 50 people may have been in the mine the time of the landslide.

Images broadcast by RCN news showed the mine as a pit about 25 feet deep and 160 feet in diameter.

Rescuers waded waist-deep through the mire, and heavy machinery also worked to remove the mud.

Local residents had begun digging in the mine after it was reported that gold had been found underground.

Police said many of them appeared to have little experience in tunnelling or mining, and that there was no registry or count of how many people entered the mine.

The governor said in the statement that the Suarez mayor had ordered the mine closed, but "the people went in despite being warned" it was dangerous.

The site was owned by mining company Agromineros, it said. Rich in resources, but with limited government presence across much of the country, Colombia is home to many such makeshift mines, particularly in zones where gold or emeralds have been found.

AP