Colombia: Final death toll put at 13 in mine explosion

Colombia: Final death toll put at 13 in mine explosion

Bogota (AFP) - Colombian authorities on Sunday put the final death toll at 13 in an explosion Friday at an illegal coal mine in the center of the country.

The explosion, in a mine near the town of Cucunuba in Cundinamarca department, was believed to be caused by an accumulation of methane gas.

The deputy mines minister, Carlos Andres Cante, announced an investigation to confirm the cause.

At the Cucunuba site, dozens of rescuers, backed by seven mine engineers, worked for more than 30 hours to recover the 13 bodies and bring an injured miner to safety, according to Silvana Habib, president of the National Mining Agency (NMA).

Authorities had said Saturday that they were still looking for two missing miners, but the two were later found dead.

President Juan Manuel Santos mourned the victims and called for tougher safety standards for the mining industry.

The NMA said Saturday that there are 44 legal mines around Cucunuba and a similar number not in compliance with the law.

Authorities said Sunday that a ceiling collapse at another illegal coal mine -- near the town of Lenguazaque, also in Cundinamarca department -- claimed a single life.

There were 23 mining deaths in Colombia in the first five months of this year, after 124 in all of 2016, according to an NMA report.

Colombia is a major coal exporter. Its mines produced a record 90 million tons last year, according to official figures.

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