BOGOTA – Colombian emergency crews ended on Sunday their rescue efforts at two coal mines in the central part of the country, where an explosion left at least 13 miners dead and one injured, authorities said.
“Over more than a day, without any rest, our emergency rescue personnel recovered the bodies of 13 deceased people, and one injured person, without any (further) incident,” said the president of the National Mining Agency (ANM), Silvana Habib Daza, as quoted in a communique issued by the Mining Ministry.
The official added that “more than eight entities worked hard to recover the victims in a relatively short time for this kind of operation.”
Habib further confirmed that both mines were illegally mining coal as they did not have environmental authorization to do so.
The explosion occurred about midnight on Friday in the El Cerezo and La Guasca mines located in the town of Pueblo Viejo, in central Cundinamarca province.
Mining Deputy Minister Carlos Andres Cante issued a call for prevention of such accidents and safety guarantees for miners, along with the adherence to protocols and the avoidance of illegal operations.
“We want tragedies such as this one ... not to occur again, and for those who are exploiting minerals to do so legally, complying with all safety standards,” Cante said.
The Mining Ministry said that with the end of rescue operations, an investigation will be launched by the ANM to determine the cause of the accident, who – if anyone – bears responsibility and what the appropriate punishment should be.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, upon his arrival on Saturday night in Bogota after an official four-day trip to France, expressed his regret over the accident.
“I would like to express our condolences, our thought, our hearts are with your families,” said the president at the Catam Air Base upon his arrival.
Meanwhile, emergency authorities on Sunday recovered the lifeless body of one of the two miners who was trapped on Saturday after a cave-in at a mine in the town of Lenguazaque, also in Cundinamarca province.
Emergency personnel are continuing to work inside the mine to try and find the other missing miner.