Honduras landslide traps 11 artisanal gold miners

Gold miners look for gold inside an informal mine in the mountains of San Juan Arriba, 130 km south of Tegucigalpa, on 7 February, 2012 Steep tunnels lead down into the informal gold mines in San Juan Arriba, near El Corpus

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Rescue workers in Honduras are trying to free 11 men who are trapped in a small gold mine 110km (70 miles) south of the capital, Tegucigalpa.

The miners were cut off on Wednesday after a landslide blocked their tunnel near the town of El Corpus.

Firefighters said they had made contact with three of the men. The fate of the other eight was not known.

Informal mines are common in Honduras but the lack of adequate security means serious accidents are not unusual.

Risky rescue

The mine is located in an area prone to landslides and quakes.

The rescue workers said their work was progressing "slowly and with difficulty" because of the risk of another landslide.

Map of Honduras

Firefighter Oscar Triminio said he and his colleagues could not use heavy machinery because the terrain was unstable.

The collapse happened in a vertical tunnel at a depth of about 80m (260ft), Mr Triminio said.

Emergency workers said they had heard shouts from three of the miners, but they did not know if the other eight were still alive.

Another firefighter, Manuel de Jesus Reyes, said they made auditory contact with some of the miners who were "banging their picks and shovels and yelling," Reuters news agency reports.

Rescuers have been pumping oxygen to the three through a hose.

The mayor of the nearby town of El Corpus, Luis Andres Rueda, said there were more than 50 informal mines in the area.

He said that daily hundreds of people used ladders to climb down into shafts as deep as 200m.

Armed with pickaxes, they hack away at the tunnel walls to try to extract minute gold nuggets from the soil.

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