Gustavo Petro
“All my solidarity to their families,” President Gustavo Petro wrote. Photo by: AFP/Daniel Munoz

It was revealed by President that after extensive efforts to rescue 10 miners who were trapped underground had failed, the death toll following an explosion at a series of connected coal mines in central Colombia has risen to 21.

"Despite all the efforts of the rescue teams, unfortunately 21 people lost their lives in this tragic accident in Sutatausa," a town 74 km (46 miles) north of the capital, Bogota, Petro said in a tweet on Thursday morning.

"All my solidarity to their families," the president wrote.

At least 11 miners perished in the disaster, which happened late on Tuesday owing to an accumulation of gases that detonated after a worker's tool created a spark, Cundinamarca Governor Nicolas Garcia said to Blu Radio on Wednesday. It spread throughout the nearby, legal mines, Al Jazeera reported.

Garcia told reporters on Wednesday that 10 miners were stuck 700 to 900 meters (2,300 to 3,000 feet) underground while nine were able to escape.

More than 100 rescue workers were deployed to free them.

"My thanks to ... each and every one of the rescuers who during these two days gave themselves body and soul to the rescue work in Sutatausa," Garcia wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.

"Our hearts are broken," he said.

There are numerous open and underground coal and gold mines in Colombia. Explosions and other mishaps happen often, typically at operations that are unlawful or don't take enough safety precautions.

The South American nation has reported 1,260 mining incidents from 2011 to May 2022 and an annual average of 103 deaths, according to official figures. In 2021, 148 deaths were recorded.

The most tragic recent incident happened in June 2010, when a mine explosion in the northwest killed 73 persons.

Nine miners were rescued from a Cundinamarca illegal coal mine that had collapsed in August.

The president of Colombia stated on Thursday, "Each work fatality is not only a business failure but also a social and governmental one."

In Colombia, mining provides a legal means of living for at least 130,000 individuals.

Nonetheless, unions frequently criticize unfavorable working conditions, including a lack of safety equipment and excessively lengthy working hours.

Colombia is a major coal producer for the global market. According to the ministry of mines and energy, in 2020 Colombia had 53% of proven coal reserves in Latin America and 0.6% of reserves in the world.

The drug trade and illegal mining are two additional major sources of income for Colombia's armed groups, who have been engaged in a nearly six-decade conflict with one another and the security forces.

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