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Mudslides Kill 28 in Gold Mine

Colombia: Accident at condemned site also leaves 40 people missing.

November 23, 2001|From Associated Press

FILADELFIA, Colombia — Rain-softened walls of a condemned strip mine crashed down on scores of gold miners Thursday in western Colombia, killing at least 28 and leaving 40 others missing, authorities said.

The victims were said to be poor people who ignored government warnings that erosion had made the mine unsafe.

It appeared that both the illegal digging and recent heavy rains were to blame for the accident.

Survivors said two separate mudslides occurred at the site in Filadelfia, a small town 120 miles west of Bogota. The second avalanche buried miners who were trying to rescue friends who had been engulfed in the first avalanche.

Rescuers shoveled furiously for hours in hopes of finding somebody alive, but only recovered bodies.

As night fell Thursday, national disaster chief Eduardo Jose Gonzalez said hopes of finding anyone alive waned as crews prepared to suspend operations. The search was to resume today.

Gonzalez said 28 bodies had been recovered, and at least 40 people were missing. Thirty-two miners were reported injured and taken to hospitals.

Hundreds of people had gathered at the scene, many of them anguished and weeping relatives of the victims.

Survivors said the earth crashed down without warning on a group of about 200 people trying to scrape gold from the well-worn hillside. The workers were toiling with shovels and picks inside a deep hole they had carved into the hill. The cavern had no structural supports.

"We heard a very loud sound and the hill suddenly fell down upon us," said 20-year-old Manuel Loaiza. "I was trapped up to my knees but some of the others dragged me out."

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