The Jakarta Post
The Manado Search and Rescue (SAR) agency has halted rescue efforts for victims who are still trapped beneath the rubble of an illegal gold mine that collapsed in Bolaang Mongondow regency, North Sulawesi.
Eighteen miners have been rescued alive as of Thursday afternoon. Twenty-three bodies have been identified, while one unidentified body and four unidentified body parts have been buried, Antara news agency reported.
The unauthorized gold mine was struck by a landslide on Feb. 26, burying at least 60 miners, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).
“We halted the evacuation process for the sake of our rescuers’ safety. Conditions at the site are getting worse,” Manado SAR operational director Budi Purnama said in Bolaang Mongondow on Thursday as quoted by Antara.
He added that rescuers, in coordination with mining experts, have found rocks and soil cracks at the location, which suggests that another landslide may occur.
“We could see falling rocks,” Budi said, adding that continuing evacuation efforts would endanger the lives of rescue officers.
The landslide occurred at night when the mine’s support beams and planks collapsed on account of unstable soil conditions.
Indonesia has many unauthorized mining sites and safety regulations are routinely violated, especially in rural areas, even though the country has banned small-scale gold mining.
In 2016, 11 miners died after a landslide struck an illegal gold mine in Jambi.
Lack of regulations and the poor construction of jerry-built mines mean accidents are frequent. A lack of employment opportunities in rural areas pushes residents to increasingly rely on illegal mining activities for their livelihood. (das)