(Bogotá) A race against time has begun in Colombia to rescue 10 miners trapped after an accidental explosion that killed at least eleven workers in a coal mine in the department of Cundinamarca, two hours from the capital Bogota.

The accident occurred Tuesday evening in the municipality of Sutatausa after a “accumulation” of gas came into contact with “a spark generated by the pickaxe” of a worker which triggered the explosion in several interconnected legal mines, said explained to the media Blu Radio the governor of the department, Nicolas Garcia.

“Eleven people have been found dead and we are continuing the search to rescue the ten (people) who remain” trapped, he said, adding that “all the teams from the National Mines Agency, firefighters, civil defence, Red Cross are actively involved in the relief.”

The trapped miners are 900 meters deep, which makes it difficult for the rescue operations of the hundred rescuers, according to the governor. “Every minute that passes, it’s less time for oxygen” and it will be “quite difficult” to find them alive, he estimated.

The National Mining Agency (ANM) tweeted that two miners were “rescued alive” shortly after the explosion.

Images broadcast by local media show firefighters and rescue workers operating at the entrances to the mines. Around, a handful of people are waiting for information about their relatives.

“An unfortunate tragedy has occurred at the Sutatausa mine where 11 people have died. We are doing everything we can with the government of Cundinamarca to rescue those trapped. Solidarity with victims and their families,” President Gustavo Petro tweeted Wednesday morning.

Accidents in mines, very often caused by accumulations of gas, are frequent in Colombia, especially in the numerous illegal mining operations in the country.

In August, nine miners were rescued in the same department after the collapse of the illegal coal mine in which they worked.

In June, 15 people died in a coal mine in the municipality of Zulia, near the Venezuelan border.

In 2021, Latin America’s fourth-largest economy recorded 148 deaths in mining accidents.

Petroleum and legal mining are Colombia’s main export products.

But illegal mining, along with drug trafficking, are the two main sources of income for the various Colombian armed groups.