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Colombia: Coal mine explosion death toll rises to 21

March 16, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro said the gas build-up that caused the explosion at a coal mine in central Colombia had killed 21 people. Search and resuce efforts were called off as 10 missing miners were found dead.

Bird's eye view of the coal mine
Rescue operations at the coal mine, near the town of Sutatausa, some 46 miles north of BogotaImage: DANIEL MUNOZ/AFP

The death toll from an explosion at a coal mine in central Colombia rose to 21 on Thursday, as authorities announced the end of search and rescue operations.

When news of the explosion was first announced on Wedensday, 11 miners were known to have died and a further 10 were still missing.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro said on Twitter that each fatality "is not only a business failure, but also a societal and governmental one."

The mine collapsed after a build-up of gas caused an explosion deep in the mine on Tuesday night.

All workers now accounted for, say officials

Officials said on Thursday that all workers at the mine at the time of the accident had been accounted for, after rescue teams worked nonstop for 30 hours.

The mining disaster, which blocked several entrances to the mine, happened in Sutatausa, a municipality in Cundinamarca department, about 45 miles or 75 kilometers from the capital city Bogota.

Coal from Colombia an alternative?

Nicolas Garcia, the governor of Cundinamarca province, said nine workers who were taken to hospital for treatment after the accident were released Thursday. Garcia said family members of victims were receiving psychological support.

Alvaro Farfan, captain of the Cundinamarca fire department, on Wednesday said that the explosion had a "wide" impact because it affected five mines that were interconnected by tunnels.

Mining accidents frequent in Colombia

Colombia exports a large amount of fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Mining disasters are common in the resource-rich country, especially in regions with illegal operations in the country's center and northeast.

This explosion took place at a legal, registered mining facility.

The National Mining Agency shows that 146 workers were killed in 117 accidents registered at mines last year alone. 

rm/msh (AP, AFP)