World

At least 14 dead after collapse in Venezuelan gold mine

An undetermined number of people are also thought to be trapped after the incident in Bolivar state.

Miner Yorvis Hernandez gets medical attention at at tent set up next to the mine
A miner gets medical attention at at tent set up next to the mine Miner Yorvis Hernandez gets medical attention at at tent set up next to the mine (Andrea Calma/AP)

At least 14 people have died after an illegally operated open-pit gold mine in central Venezuela collapsed, state authorities have said.

Several more were injured in the incident and an undetermined number of people are thought to be trapped, officials reported.

Bolivar state Governor Angel Marcano told reporters that 14 bodies had been removed so far and authorities knew of at least 11 people injured.

“We continue to carry out rescue work,” he said, with relatives demanding swift rescue efforts.

The accident took place in the Angostura municipality on Tuesday, when a wall collapsed at a mine known as Bulla Loca, which can only be reached by an hours-long boat ride.

Angostura Mayor Yorgi Arciniega said he planned to take “some 30 caskets” to a community near the mine, indicating that officials feared the death toll could rise into the dozens.

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?”

Venezuela’s government in 2016 established a huge mining development zone stretching across the middle of the country, to add new revenues alongside its oil industry.

Since then, mining operations for gold, diamonds, copper and other minerals have proliferated within and outside that zone.

Many mines operate outside or on the margins of the law. They offer lucrative jobs for ordinary Venezuelans, but conditions are brutal.

Miner Carlos Marcano, 71, survived the collapse and arrived at a triage medical tent in La Paragua on Wednesday. He said the desperate situation at the mine “was terrifying”.

“One would not want a colleague, a human being, to die like that,” he said.

“Some of us made it. There are a few wounded, but there are still a number of dead who have not been rescued and are buried there.”