The collapse of an unlicensed, open-pit gold mine Wednesday in the southwestern Colombian province of Cauca left at least two dead and 17 missing, authorities said.
Several people also were injured in the mine accident, according to Jose Victor Amu Sinisterra, the mayor of the town of Timbiqui where the mine is located.
The mayor requested emergency assistance from the national government to recover the bodies, which are believed to be buried.
“The aid organizations are already on their way to the scene, but the air force will be needed to help remove the bodies,” the mayor told Caracol Television.
Witnesses said hundreds of people were finishing a shift at the mine when tons of rock and mud fell on top of them.
The mayor told reporters that nine people were seriously injured and appealed for outside assistance, saying the Pacific coast town of 31,000 inhabitants cannot adequately respond to the tragedy.
He compared this latest mine collapse to the May 1 cave-in at a gold mine outside the town of Santander de Quilichao, also in Cauca province, that left 12 dead and two injured.
In that earlier incident, the recovery effort took six days and involved 150 emergency personnel.
“This was a foreseeable tragedy, but no one paid heed to our warnings,” Amu said, referring to illegal mining activity in the region.