Spain confirms three dead in mine collapse

SPAIN: Three people trapped deep in a Spanish potash mine when a tunnel collapsed on Thursday have died, Catalan leader Pere Aragones said.

“Unfortunately, we can confirm the deaths of three young people who worked at the mine,” Aragones told reporters outside the Cabanasses mine in Suria, 75 kilometers (46 miles) northwest of Barcelona.

Rescuers have recovered and identified the bodies of three people who are “about 30 years old,” he said, expressing his condolences to their families and colleagues.

One of the victims was an intern there for only a few days, another worked at the mine for almost six months. The third has been there for three years, said a spokesman for ICL Iberia, which operates the mine.

Two had obtained a master’s degree in engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (PCU), while the other had a PhD in geology from the University of Barcelona, ​​the institutions said.

Rescuers said the three victims were trapped “at a depth of about 900 meters” (2,950 feet) after one of the tunnels collapsed just before 9:00 a.m. (0800 GMT).

Despite desperate efforts to reach her, it was hours before rescuers reached the scene where they could confirm her death.

The rescue was complicated by the need to ensure the safety of the teams involved, regional interior minister Joan Ignasi Elena previously told reporters, saying it would be “reckless” to rush such an operation.

Aragones announced the deaths on Twitter just after midday, saying: “We deeply regret the deaths of the three miners in the accident at the Suria mine.”

A few minutes later, he deleted the tweet.

Many local and national media also said they had died, citing sources in the emergency services, but police said they could not confirm the reports until “they were reached by a doctor” and their families had been notified.

– ‘No warning’ –

When the mine collapsed, all three were “performing a routine job that they do every day,” miner Carlos Arnaldo told reporters at the scene.

“Sometimes the mine doesn’t give you a warning: the roof is collapsing and nothing can be done,” he said.

“This is terrible news,” Labor Secretary Yolanda Diaz tweeted, sending “love and solidarity to the families and colleagues of the workers affected by the Suria mine collapse.”

The Cabanasses mine, owned by ICL Iberia, the Spanish arm of Israel’s ICL group that specializes in fertilizers and chemicals, had recently passed a safety inspection, officials said.

“The last inspection was just three weeks ago and it was cleared with no sign of irregularities,” Catalan regional economy minister Roger Torrent told reporters at the scene.

ICL Iberia is the only company that produces potassium salts in Spain, taking care of both the extraction and the processing and marketing, according to its website.

The Suria-based company employs 1,100 people.

Two miners died in December 2013 when a tunnel in the same mine collapsed, the Catalan press reported at the time, citing an official statement.

The last major mining accident in Spain occurred two months earlier, in October 2013, when a gas leak at a coal mine in the northwest killed six and injured five others.

It was the worst accident at a Spanish mine since a methane explosion at a coal mine in the northern province of Asturias killed 14 miners in August 1995. –AFP Spain confirms three dead in mine collapse

Russell Falcon

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