Three people were confirmed dead while at least 15 others, who went missing, were feared dead after an illegal gold mine collapsed in southwest Colombia, authorities said on Thursday.
Cauca province Gov. Temistocles Ortega said the collapse occurred shortly before midnight in a rural area near Santander de Quilichao, about 190 miles (315 kilometers) southwest of Bogota, the capital. He said illegal miners use machinery to open huge holes to extract gold, and one of the walls of a hole fell in.
By nightfall, rescue workers had recovered three dead bodies and three injured people, but were still searching for another 15 or so who are still missing. Police, troops, civil defense and the Red Cross were aiding in rescue efforts.
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Mining accidents are common in Colombia, especially at wildcat mines in poverty-stricken areas dominated by criminal gangs with little state presence.
Less than a week ago four people were killed inhaling noxious gases following an explosion at a mine in Antioquia province that continued to operate in defiance of an order to close.