Rescuers looking for up to 60 miners trapped in a gold mine found two bodies and three survivors Wednesday, and said they believed others remained trapped by a powerful earthquake that rattled southern Peru.
Army patrols set out Wednesday morning for the Huanca mine, 480 miles southeast of Lima, which caved in during Tuesday’s magnitude-6.4 quake. They navigated roads blocked by landslides and washed out by recent flooding.
As the sky cleared Wednesday afternoon, police commandos skilled in high-altitude rescues took off in helicopters.
People were still believed to be trapped in at least three mines, including Huanca, according to a civil defense statement issued Wednesday evening.
Although officials had said Tuesday that they believed 40-60 people were trapped in Huanca, the statement Wednesday did not give any numbers, and officials suggested those estimates may have been high.
“It seems the people are tending to exaggerate things. They believe they will get more attention that way,” said Otakar Lukac, a firefighter.
Officials, meanwhile, lowered the number of dead and injured from the quake, which did the most damage to Nazca, a tourist town of 25,000, and nearby small towns.
Eleven people have been confirmed dead and 560 were injured, civil defense Gen. Julio Alcocer said. Earlier government statements had put the figures at 15 dead and 700 hurt.
In addition to the Huanca mine, the area has a network of formal and informal mines, many simply holes dug into the sides of mountains. It was unclear how many people were trapped in those mines, Alcocer said.
“It is not known if there are more dead, but there are people trapped,” he said.
Nazca police and firefighting teams with search dogs set out for some of the smaller gold mines. Lukac said his crews rescued 10 people from the smaller mines on Wednesday.
Mining Minister Alberto Pandolfi arrived to survey the damage in Nazca, where 95 percent of the homes, most of which were abode or brick structures, were damaged in the quake, said Haide Luz Torres, Nazca’s mayor.
“We are in ruins,” Luz Torres said.