JAKARTA – Indonesian rescuers began using heavy excavators on Friday to dig deeper in search of an unknown number of miners trapped in a collapsed illegal gold mine in Sulawesi Island.
The rescuers have recovered eight bodies and pressed in heavy machineries to speed up the operation amid fears that the time was running out.
Some 20 people have been rescued from the mine which collapsed after wooden structures inside caved in on Tuesday night, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Authorities have not been able to confirm the exact number of people buried under the debris.
It was initially estimated that 60 were trapped but the figure could not be confirmed because of contradictory information from residents of the area, BNPB said.
The use of excavators and loading machines to make an opening to reach the miners was approved by the family members of those trapped as the chances of finding survivors in the mountainous Bolaang Mongondow area in north Sulawesi were diminishing.
Abdul Muin Paputungan, a local official of the National Agency for Disaster, told EFE that no voices were heard since 6 pm on Thursday.
On Thursday, one of the miners died due to excessive loss of blood when the security forces and BNPB members decided to amputate his leg that was stuck under a rock.
In a statement, Sutopo said the authorities feared that removing the rock would cause the gallery to collapse further as it was supporting its roof.
Rescue teams are also concerned about the outbreak of diseases as large number of bodies remain buried, according to the spokesperson.
Illegal mining is a common phenomenon in Indonesia due to the lax attitude of the authorities and accidents occur frequently due to the lack of appropriate security measures.
In June 2018, six miners were killed in the same area after being buried by a landslide in another illegal gold mine where they had been working amid rain.
Another seven miners died and five were hospitalized in the same month after inhaling toxic smoke from burning tires at an illegal gold mine on the Lombok Island.