A tragic accident, but still a little hope. An accident occurred Tuesday evening in a coal mine in the municipality of Sutatausa, in the center of the country, after an “accumulation” of gas came into contact with “a spark generated by the pickaxe” of a worker who triggered the explosion in several interconnected legal mines.
“Unfortunately, 21 people lost their lives in this tragic accident in Sutatausa,” the governor of the department of Cundinamarca, two hours from the capital Bogota, said in a tweet. The trapped miners are 900 meters deep, which makes rescue operations difficult for the hundred rescuers, according to the governor. “Every minute that passes is less time for oxygen” and it will be “quite difficult” to find them alive, he said.
Frequent firedamp strikes in Colombia
“I was working normally when I felt a rumble”, then “I thought I was going to choke and I couldn’t see anything”, testified by telephone to AFP Joselito Rodriguez , a 33-year-old minor, survivor. “Thank God we came out unscathed but others are already dead,” he said shortly after leaving hospital where he was treated for respiratory failure.
Images broadcast by local media show firefighters and rescue workers operating at the entrances to the mines. Miners working on other farms came to lend a hand. Around, a handful of people await news of their loved ones.
Accidents in mines, often caused by firedamp explosions, are frequent in Colombia, especially in illegal mining operations, which are numerous in the country. Colombia recorded 1,260 mining accidents between 2011 and May 2022, for an average annual death toll of 103, according to official data (148 deaths in 2021).