Hopes fade for Colombia miners

Dozens missing are feared dead two days after deadly coal mine blast.

    Dozens are known to be dead and dozens more are missing and feared dead from the blast [Reuters]

    Officials said rescue efforts were moving slowly, impeded by the presence of dangerous gases and a lack of oxygen tanks, and had to be suspended several times while workers ventilated the mine shafts to disperse dangerous gases.

    IN VIDEO

    Rescuers struggle

    Luis Alfredo Ramos, the governor of Antioquia province, said 70 to 72 people were believed to be inside the mine when the explosion, which the authorities believe was caused by a methane gas buildup, occurred on Wednesday night.

    On Friday, more than 3,000 residents of Amaga, about half the rural town ringed by coffee plantations and coal mines, attended a funeral service at a local church for nine of the miners whose bodies were recovered on Thursday.

    Coroners from the state prosecutor's office said most of the victims died from burns in the explosion, which happened in a 2-km long access tunnel that drops to a depth of 150 metres.

    Missing safety features

    Colombia is the world's fifth largest coal exporter and is enjoying a boom in mining and energy investment.

    Thousands attended a funeral for nine of the miners on Friday [Reuters]

    But the disaster will put the spotlight on mining safety regulations in the industry which ranges from large deposits operated by multinationals to hundreds of small, often illegal, makeshift pits that produce coal for local markets.

    Compounding the shock and grief of Amaga residents – witnesses to the deaths of dozens of miners over the years – was the fact that the San Fernando mine was a legal operation which should have had proper safety features, our correspondent said.

    Hernan Martinez, the mining minister, said the mine, located just south of the Antioquia state capital of Medellin, lacked a methane ventilation pipe and gas-detection devices - basic safety features in coal mines – and would not reopen until an investigation into the cause of the blast was completed.

    But Jorge Buitrago, the general manager for the mine, owned by Carbones San Fernando, told the Associated Press news agency that it complied with safety requirements for monitoring and controlling gases.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Why America's Russia hysteria is dangerous

    Why America's Russia hysteria is dangerous

    The US exaggerating and obsessing about foreign threats seems quite similar to what is happening in Russia.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months