Peruvian authorities say 27 bodies have died in a fire at a remote gold mine in southern Peru.
Yanakiwa Mayor James Casquino told radio station RPP on Monday that mine recovery operations have concluded after Saturday’s fire.
Officials told local media earlier that the miners were working 100 meters below the surface when an electrical short caused a fire that quickly engulfed one of the tunnels.
We recovered the bodies of 27 workers. “The recovery process ended at 1:00 am,” Yanakiwa Mayor James Casquino told radio station RPP.
Casquino said the bodies were taken to the city morgue in Arequipa, the region’s capital.
Pictures on social media showed flames and smoke billowing from the hillside of the La Esperanza 1 mine in the Arequipa region, in one of the worst mining accidents in the country’s recent history.
Grieving relatives gathered near the site in Yanakiwa Township, awaiting news of their loved ones.
“Where are you, my dear? Where are you?” cried Marcelina Aguirre Quispe, whose husband was among the victims.
We know that there was a short circuit that caused an explosion. “We were very shocked by everything that happened,” said Francisco Edme Mamani, who met his 51-year-old brother, Frederico.
Attorney General Giovanni Matos had told the channel earlier that “27 people were killed inside the mine.”
News of the fire was only received on Sunday, after police collected details of the dead. Rescue teams worked to secure the mine before removing the bodies.
“We need to create a place where the dead are safe so we can go there and collect the bodies,” Mattos said before the bodies were recovered.
Casquino told the Andina news agency that most of the miners died from suffocation and burns.
The regional government said in a statement that the emergency response was complicated because the nearest police station was about 90 minutes from the site and several hours from the nearest town.
The mine, which is operated by Minera Yanaquihua, is legal, but there are many illegal mines in the area.
The company has been operating mines in Peru for 23 years.
Last year, 39 people were killed in mining-related accidents, according to the Department of Mines and Energy.
In 2020, four miners died after being caught in a mine collapse in Arequipa.
Mining is one of the driving forces of the Peruvian economy. The country is the largest producer of gold and copper in Latin America, and the industry accounts for more than 8% of Peru’s GDP.
The country is also the second largest producer of silver, copper and zinc in the world, according to official sources.