Kate Lamb, Jakarta – Hopes are fading for up to 100 Indonesian miners trapped inside an illegal gold mine that collapsed on the island of Sulawesi last Tuesday, with dozens of body bags sent to the site and pleas for help from the rubble now falling silent.
Thirteen people have died and 19 have been rescued after the wooden support beams of the illegal mine in Bolaang Mongondow buckled under shifting soil, trapping dozens inside.
Hundreds of rescue workers have spent the past week attempting to clear the unstable debris from the steep and muddy site, employing rope and spades and digging with their bare hands, in fear of triggering another landslide.
Survivors have been carried out on stretchers with medical personnel amputating the leg of one man whose leg was caught under a rock. He died from blood loss soon after.
For days pleas for help could be heard from the trapped men, but local officials said they have now fallen silent.
"Since yesterday, we have heard no more voices from inside," local disaster official Abdul Muin Paputungan, told the Associated Press on Monday, adding it would be a "miracle" if any more miners were pulled out alive.
A week into the ordeal, hopes for the fate of the miners have started to fade with rescuers expressing concern over the lack of oxygen inside the collapsed and confined mining pit.
It is unclear how many are trapped inside but Indonesia's national disaster agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said there could be as many as 100 miners still inside.
"Based on the reports of the miners who survived and the surrounding community, the number of miners who worked while in the pit when mining varied. Some said 30 people, 50 people, 60 people, even 100 people because at that time many were mining in large holes, [while the number of those in the] small holes are unknown," he said.
Without official data, rescue teams have been reliant on reports from the rescued miners, local community and family members to ascertain how many miners are inside. On Monday local officials doubled their request for body bags.
"Initially only 30 body bags were prepared," said Abdul Muin Paputungan, "Based on information from the public, it is estimated there are still many gold miners buried, or more than the initial estimate of 60 miners."
The condition of those trapped is unknown and search and rescue efforts, complicated by the challenging terrain, would officially continue until 11 March. Heavy machinery was also employed over the weekend to assist in evacuation efforts.
Illegal gold mining is prevalent across Indonesia, with authorities suggesting the Bolaang Mongondow collapsed due to shifting soil and a large number of mining holes in the area.