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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Colombia mine blast kills 15
Map
A gas explosion in northern Colombia has caused part of a coal mine to collapse killing 15 workers underground.

The suspected cause of the blast was the turning on of a helmet-mounted torch which ignited underground methane present in the mine.

A relative of one of the mining accident victims
Relatives gathered at the scene of the disaster
The accident happened on Thursday afternoon in the Cana Brava mine just outside the city of Cucuta, near the border with Venezuela about 400 kilometres (250 miles) north-east of the capital, Bogota.

Rescuers dug late into the night in a frantic effort to save any buried survivors, but did not find any.

"All the bodies have been evacuated," said Norte de Santander State police commander Colonel Luis Andres Estupinan. "We have 15 miners dead."

Charred bodies

The blast went off about 25 metres (80 feet) below the surface and about 1,000 metres from the entrance to the mine, sending earth and rocks crashing down on the workers, Colonel Estupinan said.

Correspondents said it was the worst mine disaster since 1997 in Colombia - the world's forth largest exporter of coal.

Colombian TV showed footage of the scene of the disaster: Soot-covered miners and sobbing relatives huddled nearby as emergency workers brought out the charred bodies; ageing coal wagons and rails could be seen in the background.

In October 1997, 16 miners lost their lives when an explosion buried them alive in the nearby Diviso mine.

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See also:

29 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Colombia
10 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese mine manager arrested
07 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China mine blast death toll rises
12 Mar 00 | Europe
Ukraine mine blast kills 80
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