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Six Confirmed Dead In Mine Disaster

January 26, 1989

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Rescuers found three more bodies Wednesday in the ruins of a gold mine that caved in after a fire was set by rival prospectors, but authorities said nearly 100 men still may be trapped inside.

The confirmed death toll stood at six at the Sol de Oro gold mine near Nazca, a city on Peru’s desert coast about 230 miles south of Lima.

Officials said Wednesday it was unlikely that there were any survivors, despite comments by Energy Minister Jose Carrasco a day earlier that rescuers heard faint tapping from inside collapsed tunnels.

″There cannot be any life inside the mine because they have been trapped for five days counting today,″ said Juan Taipe, a Nazca councilman who heads the city rescue effort.

Gen. Jorge Ferreros, the civil defense director, said two more bodies were recovered Wednesday. The Nazca mayor’s office said a third corpse was located but rescuers still had not removed it from the mine.

Nazca police Lt. Juan Robles said the trapped miners, mainly part-time workers, had been inside the mine since Saturday, when a fire prevented their escape.

The mine caved in Monday after the blaze ate through wooden tunnel supports, officials said.

Fallen earth, smoke and poison gas blocked rescuers from entering the mine until midday Tuesday, when specialized teams from state mines and Lima reached the site.

Carrasco said opposing groups of miners set the fires during a dispute over a newly discovered vein that yields 4.5 pounds of gold daily.

Officials have given conflicting information on the number of miners trapped and admit that no one knows for sure.

Nazca police said after the collapse Monday that between 150 and 300 miners were inside. Police and Nazca officials have since scaled down the figure and said Wednesday that 100 might be trapped.

Carrasco said he has received conflicting reports from officials ranging from 15 to 200 on the number of miners trapped.

Officials said it is not known exactly how many men were inside the mine because its commercial operations were abandoned, and area farmers and others have been mining for a year on an independent basis for extra cash.

The fire started in the five-level mine after gas lamps used for lighting set ablaze wooden tunnel supports on the second.

Officials said miners are believed located on the second, third and fourth levels of the mine, which extends about 1,000 feet into a half-mile high hill on Nazca’s outskirts.

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