Latin America & Caribbean

'False hope' of rescue of 11 trapped Honduras miners

The San Juan mine, in the Honduran southern department of Choluteca, a day after the gold mine collapsed trapping 11 workers.
Image caption Firefighters, volunteers and nearby residents have been helping with the rescue

Honduras says 11 men remain trapped in a small gold mine, despite earlier reports that most had been rescued.

Emergencies Commission director Moises Alvarado said earlier they had "managed to rescue eight [miners]" but soon after corrected his own statement.

"We were too hasty in relying on data from the Fire Department. We're sorry," he said, quoted by Efe news agency.

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

The town is about 110km (70 miles) south of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras also apologised for the "false report".

"The lack of communication in the area caused the rescue workers to give us false information," he said on Twitter, calling on people "not to lose hope" that the men would be rescued.

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

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

Image caption Relatives of the trapped miners waited at the scene of the accident, hoping for the men to be rescued

Firefighters, volunteers and people who live near the mine have been helping with the rescue, but their work was progressing "slowly and with difficulty" because of bad weather and the risk of another landslide.

Firefighter Oscar Triminio said he and his colleagues could not use heavy machinery because the mine "was unstable and could further collapse".

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

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

He estimated 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.

More on this story