SANTIAGO – Of a group of three Bolivians trapped inside a mine in northern Chile, one has been rescued alive, a second was found dead and a third remains missing, Chile’s mining minister said Saturday on Twitter.
The three workers became stranded at a depth of 70 meters (230 feet) on Thursday evening but were able to communicate with rescue workers by banging on the large rocks that had blocked the entrance due to a landslide.
“After 37 hours of intense work, we can confirm the rescue of one of the trapped miners at the Directorio 8 mine (near the city of) Tocopilla,” in the northern region of Antofagasta, Baldo Prokurica said. “Regrettably, one of the three miners is dead and a third is still missing. We won’t rest until we find him.”
The rescued Bolivian miner has been identified as 57-year-old Leonardo Condori, Prokurica said at the entrance to the mine, adding that he is in good physical condition.
The minister said it still is unclear which of the two other Bolivian miners – 45-year-old Salomon Veizaga Delgadillo and 19-year-old Lenin Veizaga Soto – is dead and which one is missing.
Referring to the rescue, Prokurica said major work had been done overnight to clear the blocked area and that Condori was able to leave the mine under his own power.
Condori was taken to a hospital, where authorities hope he can provide information on the whereabouts of the missing miner and explain the circumstances surrounding the death of the other man.
The three had entered the mine just hours before the landslide to carry out repair work on some ventilation ducts, a captain of Chile’s Carabineros militarized national police, David Cortes, told reporters.
Rescue crews were able to establish contact with the trapped miners on Thursday night. After their whereabouts was identified by bangs on either side of the obstruction, work was carried out that led to the removal of part of the landslide debris on Saturday morning.
On Friday, Bolivian President Evo Morales sent a commission to Chile to coordinate rescue actions with that nation’s government.
In 2010, Chile mounted a dramatic rescue of 33 miners who had spent 70 days underground, a harrowing ordeal that attracted media attention worldwide.