The death toll from a Colombia coal mine explosion has risen to 16 after more than 70 miners were trapped, President Alvaro Uribe said on Thursday.
"To be honest there is not much (hope), very little, practically none, but it is better to wait until the operation is finished," Luz Amanda Pulido, a disaster official, said when asked by local radio about getting the workers out alive.
The gas explosion occurred just after midnight at the San Fernando mine in Amaga town in northwestern Antioquia province, far from the major coal operations run by large companies such as Drummond and Glencore near the Caribbean coast.
Hundreds are killed or injured every year while prospecting for gold or coal in often makeshift mines in Colombia, the world's No. 5 coal exporter and increasingly a target for foreign gold companies attracted by better security.
A methane gas explosion in a coal mine killed eight workers last year also in Antioquia province and in 2007, 31 miners were killed in an explosion Norte de Santander in one of the worst disasters of its kind in a decade.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 17 Haziran 2010, 17:00