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Colombian coal mine explosion kills at least 11

The regional governor says 100 rescue workers have been deployed to try to free 10 underground miners.

At least 11 people have been killed in a coal mine explosion in central Colombia, the governor of the country’s Cundinamarca department has said. Ten other miners are still trapped underground.

The incident in the Sutatausa municipality, 74 km north of the capital Bogota, occurred as a result of a buildup of gases that exploded after a worker’s tool caused a spark, Governor Nicolas Garcia told Blu Radio on Wednesday.

The explosion happened late Tuesday at a series of legal mines that are connected to each other.

“People are trapped between 700 and 900 meters (2,300 and 3,000 feet)” underground, Garcia told reporters. Two people have already been rescued and seven have escaped unassisted.

Firefighters and other rescue workers could be seen at the entrances to the mines on local media footage as a handful of family members waited for information about their loved ones.

The governor said more than 100 rescuers were working to free the trapped miners.

“Every minute that passes means less oxygen,” he said.

In a post on Twitter, Colombian President Gustavo Petro confirmed that 11 people had died in what he described as a “tragedy”.

“We are doing everything we can to save alive the trapped people together with the government of Cundinamarca,” he wrote. “A hug of solidarity to the victims and their families.”

Colombia is home to numerous open and underground gold and coal mines. Incidents occur regularly, usually in operations that are illegal or lack adequate security measures.

The most serious recent incident occurred in June 2010, when 73 people died in a mine explosion in the Northwest.

In August, nine miners were rescued from a collapsed illegal coal mine in Cundinamarca.

In 2021, the South American country recorded 148 deaths in mining incidents.