Rescuers pulled eight more bodies Wednesday from a gold mine that collapsed after feuding miners reportedly set fires below ground. An official held out little hope for about 100 miners who remained trapped.
Officials said the mine had not been used commercially for about a year, but area farmers and others have been mining it independently for extra cash.Rescue official Juan Taipe, a Nazca city councilman, said the bodies found Wednesday were recovered during overnight operations. On Tuesday, rescuers withstood deadly fumes caused by a combination of smoke and gases in the mine while pulling three men alive from the rubble and recovering three bodies.
Taipe told The Associated Press there was litle hope other miners would be rescued alive because they had been trapped since Saturday in the Sol de Oro gold mine near Nazca, 230 miles south of Lima.
Nazca police Lt. Juan Robles said the mine was ravaged by arson Saturday and collapsed Monday when its charred wooden tunnel supports gave in.
Energy Minister Jose Carrasco visited the mine and told reporters on his return to Lima on Tuesday that opposing groups of miners set the fires during a dispute. The state news agency Andina said the miners were battling over a newly discovered vein that was yielding about 4.5 pounds of gold daily.
Officials said fallen earth, smoke and poison gas prevented rescuers from entering the mine until Tuesday, when teams of specialists from state mines and Lima reached the site.
The fire started in the mine Friday after gas lamps used for lighting set ablaze wooden tunnel supports on the second level, Robles said. That fire was controlled, he said, but it flared again on Saturday, and miners working inside were blocked from leaving by heavy smoke.
Robles said the miners were believed to be on the second, third and fourth levels of the five-level mine, which extends about 1,000 feet into a half-mile-high hill on Nazca's outskirts.
Robles said about 900 miners using mainly picks and shovels have each extracted up to a gram of gold a day, valued at $10, for sale to the state mining company.