Four dead miners and 65 more poisoned by inhaling toxic gases was the toll taken by an explosion in a gold mine in the northwestern Colombian municipality of Buritica, emergency management services said Saturday.
The director of the Dapard disaster-prevention agency, Cesar Hernandez, said on Twitter that the rescue operation, which began Friday night, ended before dawn Saturday when the four fatalities were confirmed.
According to Hernandez, 65 people were treated in hospitals of the region and 16 were taken to medical centers in the municipalities of Santa Fe and Giraldo.
The mayor of Buritica, Carlos Mario Varela Ramirez, told local media that the number of people being cared for in hospitals and by emergency management teams that dealt with Friday's disaster has risen to 95, most of them poisoned from inhaling toxic gases.
Because of the accident, the National Mining Agency ordered the suspension Saturday of mining work and the use of explosives in the area where the accident occurred.
Colombia's Mines Minister Amylkar Acosta said on Caracol Radio that the Buritica mine had an evacuation order due to the unstable terrain and lack of the necessary safety conditions for mining activities to continue.
The accident occurred at a concession of the multinational mining company Continental Gold, whose territory was invaded for illegal exploitation, according to Mayor Varela.
According to the firm's Web site, the Buritica Project is 100 percent company-owned and covers an area of 59,095 hectares (146,000 acres).
Buritica is a town of around 7,500 inhabitants and is also known as "the Mountain of Gold" for the number of mines where the valued metal is found. EFE