Rescuers in Nicaragua have rescued 20 miners who had been trapped deep underground for nearly two days after a cave-in at an unlicensed goldmine, but five others are still missing.
“We give thanks to God our Lord and the Virgin Mary for having saved from death 20 artisanal miners,” first lady Rosario Murillo, the spokeswoman for President Daniel Ortega, told reporters on Friday.
She said five miners had “not surfaced” and rescue crews were working to find them.
The miners were pulled out one at a time using a pulley system installed late on Friday near the pit where they had been trapped.
Most younger than 30, they were “pretty tired, exhausted, dehydrated, muddy and dirty”, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
They were immediately embraced by family members, who had stayed nearby since the accident, and taken to the nearest hospital.
The accident happened at an artisanal mine near the town of Bonanza, which is perched on the side of a hill, in a region that is home to Nicaragua’s biggest goldmines.
There had been 27 “guiriseros” or informal goldminers, working in the shaft when the mouth of the mine caved in because of a landslide triggered by heavy downpours, on Thursday morning.
Word of the collapse only emerged late on Thursday because the site was so remote, local disaster official Martha Lagos said.
Two workers buried near the surface quickly managed to dig their way out after the collapse in the remote village of El Comal in the country’s northeast, according to the local disaster prevention committee.
The group of 20 miners – trapped in the mine shaft 800m underground – could be heard screaming for help from under the rubble, said Omar Medina, a miner who helped with the rescue efforts.
“We heard the echo of their cries and answered,” he said.
The five still missing may have fallen into a deep pit, local authorities said, explaining the rescue efforts were complex because the mine had been abandoned by mining companies and was being exploited anew by artisanal miners.