16 dead, dozens trapped in Colombian mine blast

BOGOTA, Colombia

The explosion Wednesday night collapsed part of an access tunnel that is more than a mile (2,000 meters) long and drops to a depth of 500 feet (150 meters), said provincial disaster coordinator John Rendon.

Uribe posted information about the explosion at the San Fernando mine on the presidential website.

"It's very sad news," he said in a statement, adding that the predicament of the trapped miners is "a very difficult fate."

Two injured miners managed to escape from the mine in Amaga, a town located just south of Medellin, capital of Uribe's home state of Antioquia, Rendon said.

An estimated 70 to 80 workers were in the mine at the moment of the explosion "because by chance it happened during a shift change," said Gen. Alberto Mejia, commander of the army's Medellin-based 4th Brigade. A 22-man army special forces rescue team was being dispatched to the mine to help, Mejia said.

At least 100 rescue workers were at the scene, said provincial Red Cross director, Beatriz Delgado.

The director of Colombia's state mining institute, Mario Ballesteros, said that the mine passed a routine annual safety check just last month.

In order to prevent the accumulation of methane gas, a common occurrence in coal mines, ventilation systems equipped with sensors are placed in mining shafts. If the San Fernando mine passed the safety inspection, it is likely to have had such a system, Ballesteros said.

The owner of the mine, Carbones San Fernando, did not immediately comment.

At least nine workers were killed in the same mine last August.

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.