Colombia mine landslide kills 21

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2007, 12:00am

A landslide triggered by local residents digging for rumoured deposits of gold in an abandoned mine killed at least 21 people and injured another 26 in southern Colombia, authorities said.

Seven of those injured were in serious condition late on Saturday, said Juan Jose Chaux, Cauca provincial governor.

Mr Chaux said the search for survivors at the mine near the town of Suarez, 350km southwest of Bogota, was suspended on Saturday evening because of darkness and bad weather, which made the open pit unsafe.

It was unclear how many people were missing, but police officer Jose Delgado said about 50 people might have been in the mine.

Images broadcast by RCN news showed the pit was about 8 metres deep and 50 metres in diameter. Rescuers waded waist-deep through the mire, and heavy machinery also worked to remove the mud.

The local residents had begun digging in the mine after it was reported that gold deposits had been found underground, Mr Delgado said by telephone from the scene of the landslide.

He added that many of them appeared to have little experience in tunneling or mining, and that there was no count of how many people had entered the mine.

The governor said the Suarez mayor had ordered the mine closed, but 'the people went in despite being warned' it was dangerous.