Colombia mine collapse: Diggers brought in to search

It is unclear how many people are buried, as Karenina Velandia reports

Related Stories

Rescue workers in Colombia are using large mechanical diggers as they try to find people buried under tonnes of mud at a gold mine.

Three bodies have been recovered so far but officials say the unstable soil is making the search problematic.

It is not clear exactly how many people are underneath the rubble, as the mine was operating illegally.

Crowds gathered at the site in the south-western Cauca department after the incident on Wednesday night.

The hundreds of miners and relatives watching the rescue efforts have refused to move away despite being warned that they themselves could be buried alive by another landslide.

"We're hoping for a miracle from God, because that's all we can hope for and wait and see what happens. Someone could have survived," one local woman said.

Miners and locals watch on as the rescue operation in Santander de Quilichao, Colombia, gets underway - 1 May 2014 Crowds of miners and relatives of the missing gathered at the site despite the risk of another landslide
Rescuers work on the removal of sludge in Santander de Quilichao, Colombia - 1 May 2014 Police, soldiers, civil defence personnel and the Red Cross have all joined the rescue effort
A miner searches for gold in sludge removed during the rescue operations in Santander de Quilichao, Colombia - 1 May 2014 Correspondents say thousands of unchecked mines can be found in Colombia's most remote areas

The governor of the Cauca department, Temistocles Ortega, said illegal miners had used machinery to open huge holes to extract gold, and one of them had caved in, burying them.

At least seven large mechanical diggers have been working non-stop at the bottom of the large pit and specially trained search dogs have been deployed.

But while work continues in the mud below, an official with the firefighters at the scene said it was already too late.

"You have to eliminate the idea [of survivors]. There is no possibility that someone has survived because huge amounts of mud and earth fell on those people," he said.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos blamed the incident on illegal mining, saying his government was tackling the problem.

But correspondents say thousands of unchecked mines can be found in Colombia's most remote areas.

Only last Friday, another four miners were killed and 65 affected by poisonous gases in the Antioquia department.

Map of Colombia

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Latin America & Caribbean stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Woman standingMysterious miracle

    It's extremely unusual and shouldn't give false hope, but what makes the body beat cancer on its own?


  • A cyborg cockroachClick Watch

    The cyborg cockroach - why has a computer been attached to this insect’s nervous system?

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.