Indonesian officials said yesterday dozens of rescuers were using spades and ropes to dig out around 45 people who were feared buried by the collapse of an illegal gold mine on the island of Sulawesi that killed at least one person.
Rescuers said they could hear the voices of some of those trapped in makeshift mining shafts in a muddy hillside in the Bolaang Mongondow area of North Sulawesi province and believed many were still alive.
"We are able to detect that many of them are still alive because we can hear their voices, as there are some places where air is getting in and out and there are gaps in the mud," Abdul Muin Paputungan of Indonesia's disaster agency said by phone.
Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency said one body had been recovered by 8:00 am yesterday after the mine collapsed the previous evening. Indonesian media reports put the death toll at three.
The Indonesian government has banned such small-scale gold mining, although regional authorities often turn a blind eye to the practice in more remote areas. With little regulation, such mines are prone to accidents.
Search-and-rescue teams and military officers were working together but using simple tools such as spades and ropes because conditions remained dangerous, with the land still prone to shifting and sliding, Paputungan said.
He said the families of victims had started gathering at the mine site to wait for news.