Dozens feared dead in Venezuela mine collapse

Relatives mourn a miner who died after the collapse of a remote illegal mine, in La Paragua, Bolivar state, Venezuela on February 21, 2024. (Photo/AFP)

The collapse of an illegal mine in the remote jungles of southern Venezuela may have killed as many as 25 people, the mayor of the affected area has said.

"There is talk of 25 dead and 15 wounded," said Yorgi Arciniega, mayor of the Angostura municipality on Wednesday, adding that there was not yet "an exact number."

The incident occurred on Tuesday at the Bulla Loca mine in the state of Bolivar, a seven-hour boat ride from the nearest town, La Paragua, where family members waited anxiously for news.

Earlier, the Bolivar state's secretary of citizen security, Edgar Colin a Reyes, reported two dead and two injured.

Reyes said the injured had been transported to hospital in the regional capital Ciudad Bolivar, four hours from La Paragua, which lies 750 kilometres southeast of the capital Caracas.

The dead were taken by boat to La Paragua.

Ongoing rescue effort

"My brother, my brother, my brother," cried a relative as he saw a body being taken off a boat.

The military, firefighters and other organisations were "moving to the area by air" to evaluate the situation, Reyes said.

Rescue teams were also being flown in from Caracas to aid in the search.

"We are evaluating the damage and doing a rescue analysis," the vice minister of civil protection, Carlos Perez Ampueda, told the AFP news agency.

He shared a video of the incident on X, formerly Twitter, showing dozens of people working in the shallow waters of an open pit mine when a wall of earth slowly collapses upon them. Some managed to flee while others were engulfed.

Relatives of the miners gathered in La Paragua, the closest community to the mine, to ask the government to send aircraft to the remote location to rescue the injured and recover bodies.

"We are here waiting, please, for the government to support us with helicopters, planes, anything," said Karina Rios, whose daughter's father was trapped in the collapse. "There are quite a few dead, there are people wounded. Why don’t they give us support, where are they?"

Rios said she is worried that bodies could quickly decompose because of the area's conditions.

In December last year, at least 12 people were killed when a mine in the Indigenous community of Ikabaru, in the same region, collapsed.

The Bolivar region is rich in gold, diamonds, iron, bauxite, quartz and coltan. Aside from state mines, there is also a booming mining industry.


Source: TRT