Dozens trapped as illegal gold mine collapses in Sulawesi, Latest World News - The New Paper

Dozens trapped as illegal gold mine collapses in Sulawesi

This article is more than 12 months old

JAKARTA: Indonesian officials said yesterday that dozens of rescuers were using spades and ropes to dig out around 45 people who were feared buried by the collapse of an illegal gold mine on the island of Sulawesi.

The incident, in which at least one person was killed, happened in makeshift mining shafts in the Bolaang Mongondow area of North Sulawesi province.

"We are able to detect many of them are still alive because we can hear their voices, as there are some places where air is getting in and out and there are gaps in the mud," Mr Abdul Muin Paputungan of Indonesia's disaster agency said by phone.

Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency said one body had been recovered yesterday morning after the mine collapsed the previous evening. Indonesian media put the death toll at three.

The Indonesian government has banned such small-scale gold mining, though regional authorities often turn a blind eye to the practice in remote areas.

Such mines are prone to accidents such as this.

Search-and-rescue teams and military officers were using simple tools such as spades and ropes because conditions remained dangerous, with the land still prone to shifting and sliding, Mr Paputungan said.

He said the families of victims had started gathering at the mine site to wait for news.

Photos showed rescue workers and villagers scrambling to pull out survivors.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said dozens of people had been mining for gold when beams and support boards broke suddenly.

Mr Gatot Sugiharto, who heads a group called the Citizens Mining Association, estimated that an experienced miner might be able to survive for up to three or four days under the rubble if they could find air pockets and were not crushed by rocks.

"They can breathe slowly and usually they don't panic. If there is no poisonous gas they can survive for some time," he said. - REUTERS