More than 100 rescuers in Indonesia are racing to free dozens of people who have been trapped in a remote goldmine for three days amid fears they are growing weaker and oxygen is running out.
The national disaster agency said 19 people had been freed from the mine in North Sulawesi’s Bolaang Mongondow district by Thursday and 36 remained trapped.
Emergency workers, scrambling to free the men using their bare hands, were passing food and water to the trapped men. The death toll from the disaster stood at seven.
One man died from blood loss after his leg was amputated in an effort to free him.
Local disaster official Abdul Muin Paputungan said the man died while being carried out of the area.
“We were forced to amputate his leg to get him out because besides his lower leg being badly injured, the rock that squeezed it was impossible to shift or lift because we feared it could cause landslides and endanger rescuers and other victims,” Paputungan said.
“Sadly I have to say that he died of blood loss. Since the beginning his wounds were bleeding a lot,” he said.
Rescue workers used stretchers made from tree branches and twine to haul victims through steep jungle terrain to safety.
“We hope those still trapped can survive with the food and drinking water that we delivered to them,” Paputungan said. “We have to race against time because their conditions are getting weaker and the oxygen inside we hope is still enough to let them survive.”
Wooden structures in the mine collapsed on Tuesday evening due to shifting soil and the large number of mining holes. Informal mining operations are commonplace in Indonesia, providing a tenuous livelihood to thousands who labor in conditions with a high risk of serious injury or death.
The national disaster agency said at least 140 people from different agencies are involved in the rescue effort. It said there was an urgent need for body bags.
Photos showed a trapped miner’s arms and head jutting through a gap in rocks and rescuers working through the night in arduous conditions.
A woman who took her missing husband’s ID to an emergency command post cried out in anguish when an officer showed her a photo of a dead victim they believed was her husband.
“God forgive me,” she screamed.