BONANZA, Nicaragua — Rescuers in Nicaragua raced Friday to reach at least 24 freelance gold miners trapped by a landslide, including 20 who have been located and have communicated with emergency crews.
Teams of dogs helped locate the 20 miners, who are inside a kind of cave in the mine on the side of a mountain, but authorities have not yet been able to get them out, a spokesman said.
The spokesman told local Channel 8 that the 20 have been able to communicate with rescue workers. They said they didn’t know the whereabouts of the other four. Rescuers have not yet been able to send food or water to the miners, who have been trapped for more than 24 hours.
Miners and residents near the El Comal gold and silver mine in Bonanza, about 260 miles northeast of Managua, have studied possible ways to reach the trapped miners, said commander Javier Amaya of the rescue team.
“We have organized a rescue plan. Every 15 minutes a group of five or 10 miners will enter the mine on wooden ladders, tying themselves off and going in until they reach them,” Amaya said.
The slide occurred Thursday at the gold and silver mine, which is operated by Hemco. The trapped miners are not employees of Hemco, but rather freelancers allowed to work in the company’s concession if they sell any gold they find to the firm, mining company spokesman Gregorio Downs said.
Downs said the company had warned miners about the danger of working in the El Comal area, especially after two miners died in a rain-caused landslide there last month.
“We live by extracting mineral from Hemco. They told us digging here was risky, but sometimes one is willing to risk it for a few more cents,” said Absalon Toledo, director of the informal miners.
Authorities didn’t receive word until late Thursday after the mine lost contact with the workers, who are believed to be about 165 feet below the surface. There were originally 26 miners underground but two were rescued.