Dozens trapped by Colombian coal mine explosion

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The Independent US

A coal mine explosion in north-western Colombia believed to have been caused by a build-up of methane gas killed at least 16 miners and left dozens trapped more than 10 hours later, President Alvaro Uribe said yesterday.

The explosion on Wednesday night collapsed part of an access tunnel that is more than a mile long and drops to a depth of 500 feet, said provincial disaster coordinator John Rendon.

Mr Uribe posted information about the explosion at the San Fernando mine on the presidential website. "It's very sad news," he said in a statement, adding that the predicament of the trapped miners is "a very difficult fate".

Two injured miners managed to escape from the mine in Amaga, a town located just south of Medellin, capital of Mr Uribe's home state of Antioquia, Mr Rendon said.

An estimated 70 to 80 workers were in the mine at the moment of the explosion "because by chance it happened during a shift change," said General Alberto Mejia, commander of the army's Medellin-based 4th Brigade. A 22-man army special forces rescue team was being dispatched to the mine to help, Mr Mejia said. At least 100 rescue workers were at the scene.