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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 October 2007, 04:09 GMT 05:09 UK
Colombia mine collapse kills 24
Rescue worker at mine site
Rescuers waded through mud with heavy machinery
At least 24 amateur gold prospectors have been killed in a mine collapse in south-west Colombia.

Some 18 people were injured and another 10 estimated to be missing after the accident near the town of Suarez, about 350km (220 miles) from Bogota.

Local residents were mining for gold with few security measures in place.

Rescue efforts have been called off for the night and were hampered by the fact that there was no record of how many people had entered the mine.

Recent torrential rains had weakened the sides of the open cast mine, sparking a landslide of mud and rock on some 50 prospectors.

'No safety'

Cauca provincial Governor Juan Jose Chaux said the search had been suspended as darkness and bad weather had made the mine more unsafe.

A local policeman told AP news agency: "There are still a lot of people to rescue, and we don't know what conditions they're in."


Television pictures showed rescuers with heavy machinery wading through mud in an eight meter (25 feet) deep by 50 meter (160 feet) wide pit.

Mr Chaux said prospectors had entered the pit after rumours there were gold seams despite being warned it was unsafe by the Suarez mayor.

The site is owned by mining company Agromineros.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia says gold deposits abound in the region but few mining companies venture to operate there because warring factions control much of the country's rural parts.

Local residents have taken the opportunity to set up illegal mining operations which respect no safety regulations, according to our correspondent.

In February a gas explosion at a coal mine in north-eastern Colombia killed 32 miners.

Latest footage of the scene of the landslide

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04 Sep 07 |  Country profiles
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