Rescuers in Nicaragua raced against the clock yesterday to locate five people still missing two days after a cave-in at an unlicensed gold mine after the rescue of 20 of their colleagues.
First lady Rosario Murillo, the presidential spokeswoman, said she hoped "we can find them in the coming hours".
The 20 miners were pulled out one at a time using a pulley system installed late on Friday near the pit where they were trapped.
WATCH: A news report of the Nicaraguan miners' rescue
Most younger than 30, they were "pretty tired, exhausted, dehydrated, muddy and dirty", a photographer on the scene said.
They were embraced by family members who had stayed nearby since the accident, and then taken to a hospital.
Two workers buried near the surface managed to dig their way out and seek help after the collapse in the village of El Comal in northeastern Nicaragua, according to the area disaster prevention committee. Authorities had said earlier they were trying to confirm whether any miners had died, noting that the incident happened in an area with poor communication.
A regional TV station had earlier shown what appeared to be the body of a dead miner being recovered from the pit.
The accident happened at a mine near the town of Bonanza, which is perched on the side of a hill, in a region that is home to Nicaragua's biggest gold mines.
Desperate relatives initially tried to dig through to the trapped miners before being blocked by the unstable ground, news reports said.
Reports of the collapse emerged only late on Thursday because the site was so remote from larger centres, official Martha Lagos said.
Rescued miner Marvin Urbina, 34, said he and some fellow miners saw an avalanche of mud and rock coming their way.
They clung to the walls of the shaft but at least four of their co-workers were crushed by the mud and rock streaming down on them, he said.
"I asked God to let me live, and he listened to me and now I will serve him," Urbina said.
Outside the mine, Jorge Hernandez, 25, said he learned his brother was one of the miners trapped while watching television in Nicaragua's capital, Managua. He rushed to Bonanza.
"We're praying to God with all of our souls so that my brother and the other men can be rescued alive and well," he said.
He added that his brother Michael, 24, moved to Bonanza from Managua last year to work in the mine. It was unclear whether he was one of the miners rescued.
Julio Quintero, head of Nicaraguan miner Hemco, a unit of Colombia's Mineros, said the mine in the Bonanza project 420km northeast of Managua was closed about four years ago after being deemed unsafe.
Nonetheless, miners continued to work there against the company's orders, and Quintero said Hemco had continued to buy minerals from them until recently, when it decided it could not be sure where the product came from.
The mine had been affected by seasonal rains in the past, the company added, with another landslide two months ago killing two miners.
The Bonanza project, which began production in 1995, produced about 37,300 ounces of gold a year, according to Hemco's website.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press