Amaga: It could take three days to recover the bodies of 12 miners trapped in a Colombian coal shaft, authorities said Friday after ruling out any hope the men survived.
The flood began on Thursday evening when an underground water source burst open and started filling the mine in Amaga in northwestern Colombia.
"There is no chance the 12 are alive, zero probability," said the head of the town`s environmental management and mining department, Carlos Usma.
The flooding was about 250 meters (820 feet) deep, and the men likely drowned.
"The water levels were such that there was no escape," Usma said.
The 12 miners were aged between 23 and 55. According to Usma, the "La Cancha" mine was licensed and operating legally.
Sergio Fajardo, the governor of the Antioquia region where the mine is located, said it would take about three days to retrieve the bodies.
"We are hoping for something extraordinary to have happened, but conditions make us think the people died," Fajardo said.
Dozens of rescuers were at the scene, but the recovery operation was said to be complicated because of the high water levels and limited access to electricity.
Tearful relatives crowded around the mine Friday.
Carlos Estrada, a brother of two of the trapped miners, told Caracol Radio of his heartache.
"There`s much anguish and pain. We are hoping the Lord will allow someone to survive but they told us there`s no hope," Estrada said.
Luis Guillermo Castaneda, a 52-year-old veteran miner, told AFP that he`d finished work for the day just minutes before he felt a blast of water underground.
"It sounded like a windstorm, I turned around to see if I could help anyone but there was nothing I could do. All you could see was water," Castaneda said.
Coal mining is the main industry in Amaga, which is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Colombia`s second largest city Medellin.
Colombia has more than 14,000 mines, more than half of which operate without proper permits, officials say.