JAKARTA, March 5 (Xinhua) — The death toll from a mine collapse in North Sulawesi province of central Indonesia has risen to 17 while the search and rescue efforts were thwarted by further slides of rocks and soil in the illegal gold mine.
A heavy machinery equipment has opened the access to the underground tunnel, but more landslides occurred halting the rescue operation, said Abdul Muin Peputungan, head of emergency unit of the disaster management agency in Bolaang Mongondow district.
“So far, four bodies of miners have been identified, and one injured survivor has been dead days ago. Besides, there are also 12 body bags (containing miners’ bodies). The bodies have not been identified,” Abdul told Xinhua over phone.
The death toll has risen from nine on Saturday, according to the official.
A total of 18 miners survived the disaster which hit the unlicensed gold mine in Bakan village on Feb. 26, he said.
As scores of miners are still believed to be trapped underground, and authorities have extended the state of emergency for three days starting from Tuesday.
Spokesman of the National Disaster Management Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the number of miners who were working underground at the time of the disaster was unclear, but some sources said it could be as many as 100.
Poor mine infrastructure and too many holes dug by miners amid unstable soil condition were to blame for the accident, according to the disaster agency.
The government has prohibited operation of illegal gold mines, which are often located in remote areas.