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Venezuela pit mine collapse reportedly leaves dozens of people buried in mud

The wall of an open pit mine in central Venezuela collapsed on Tuesday, reportedly leaving dozens of workers trapped under mud and sparking a frantic rescue effort. Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional cited Edgar Colina Reyes, the government security secretary for Bolivar, the nearest city to the mine in the town of La Paragua, as confirming the accident, but his office had provided no further detail as of Tuesday evening.

CNN's Spanish language service quoted local mayor Yorgi Arciniega as saying at least 30 people were killed in the collapse, with about 100 more buried, but there was no immediate confirmation of that toll from national officials. The AFP news agency quoted Reyes as saying there were only two confirmed deaths and two injuries, but he noted that officials were still "evaluating the damage and doing a rescue analysis."

The newspaper, and regional outlet Correo del Caroni, said Reyes was heading for the Bulla Loca mine Wednesday morning to assess the situation.

The newspapers both quoted a local journalist as saying the mine wall that collapsed was approximately 115 feet tall. Photos posted to social media from the scene showed a large, open pit of clay-colored mud, with workers and others racing to help people injured or trapped by the apparent landslide.

Iron ore, gold, bauxite and other minerals are extracted from mines across the Venezuelan state of Bolivar, including many unsanctioned sites. 

The last major accident in the region, according to Correo del Caroni, was only a couple months ago in the Gran Sabana district. At least 12 people were reportedly killed in that incident, which came only a month after a previous accident at the same mine that did not result in any deaths, according to the newspaper.

Local journalist Fritz Sanchez was sharing images and information from the Bulla Loca mine on his social media accounts Tuesday.

"What we were warned of this past December has happened today," he said in one post. "They tell me of a collapse in the Bulla Local mine, which has left more than 100 people buried."

He indicated the pit may have been an illegal gold mining operation, but there was no information immediately available from Venezuelan authorities to confirm the nature of the site or the number of people trapped or injured.

Human rights groups have previously voiced serious concern over the number of children working in Venezuela's open gold mines. 

A pair of boots and other tools used in an open pit mine are seen as Venezuelan children work through the mud in search of gold in El Callao, Bolivar State, Venezuela, in a Sept. 2, 2023. YRIS PAUL/AFP/Getty
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