Rescue teams in Preah Vihear province yesterday called off search efforts to locate gold miners suspected to have been trapped underground after a mine shaft in Rovieng district collapsed on Monday.
“It has already been more than two days [since the collapse] and there have been no results,” said district police chief Say Deth. “The chances of survival for any of the trapped miners is very slim.”
Deth added that the decision to call off the search was also made in the interests of the rescue teams.
“The mine is by the side of a cliff. If we continue digging, it might cause a landslide,” Deth said. “It will be dangerous for the rescue teams.”
The search involved more than 40 police officers and two excavators working through the night since Monday.
So far, only 18-year-old miner Thy Nath has been confirmed to be missing, although district governor E Saro said that “two or three others” might be trapped, judging from survivors’ accounts he had heard.
Since the collapse on Monday, there have been conflicting reports on the number of victims trapped, and local authorities still cannot say for certain exactly how many were in the mine when disaster struck.
According to police, the miners were prospecting in the abandoned makeshift mine and did not have the proper skills or the technical tools to mine safely.
Deth added that Nath’s parents – who were on-site – had given their blessings to call off the search, as local officials had tried their best to locate their son.
Despite these efforts, the authorities have turned up empty. “We dug at the tunnel and reached a cave at the bottom of the mountain,” said provincial police chief Si Kiri. “But all we saw was the wood used to stop the tunnel from collapsing.”