01 November 2014, News Wires – Colombia said Friday that 12 miners trapped in a coal shaft were probably dead after the mine flooded with water.
The 12 men, aged between 23 and 55, became trapped Thursday in the mine in Amaga in northwestern Colombia when the pit filled with water.
He said the flooding in the mine was 250 meters (820 feet) deep, and the 12 men likely drowned.
“The water levels were such that there was no escape and they would have died from lack of air,” Usma said.
The coal mine, called La Cancha, was licensed and was operating legally, according to the official.
Dozens of rescuers were at the scene trying to save the men, but the operation was said to be complicated because of the high water levels and limited access to electricity.
Officials said that the water would be pumped out of the mine Friday to retrieve the bodies from the shaft, where anxious relatives were waiting.
Coal mining is the main economic activity in Amaga, which is about 40 kilometres (24 miles) from Colombia’s second largest city Medellin.
Colombia has upwards of 14,000 mines, more than half of which operate without proper permits, officials say.