Lima, May 8 (EFE).- A total of 27 dead bodies were recovered in the wake of a fire that broke out over the weekend at a gold mine in southern Peru, officials said Monday.
The search for victims concluded at 10.50 pm Sunday, the Attorney General’s Office of the southern department of Arequipa told government-owned news agency Andina.
It added that a large National Police contingent took part in the operation, having arrived at the remote mountainous zone of Condesuyos province where the La Esperanza gold mine is located.
The corpses were transferred to the central morgue of Arequipa, a city more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Lima, according to an official report, which said autopsies are to be conducted there before the victims’ bodies are turned over to their family members.
A crime-scene inspection has been conducted at the mine, according to the top prosecutor in Condesuyos, Giovanni Mattos, who said representatives of the Yanaquihua S.A.C. mining company and a contractor will be questioned as part of the investigation.
The recovery of the bodies was delayed because rescue teams had to wait for toxic gases in the area to dissipate, Mattos said.
The mining company also confirmed that the search operation had concluded, the RPP television and radio broadcaster reported, adding that family members had been allowed access to the mine’s premises to identify the victims.
Peru’s government on Sunday confirmed the deaths of the 27 miners, all of whom worked for a company contracted by Yanaquihua, and expressed its “condolences to the family members and the people of Arequipa.”
The fire was sparked by an electrical short-circuit early Saturday, said the owner of the mine. At the time, a group of workers were inside at a depth of 80 meters (260 feet).
Images disseminated by local news outlets and on social media showed a large column of black smoke rising out of one of the mine shafts
Yanaquihua S.A.C. says on its website that it is a formally constituted company that comprises small mine producers that extract gold and other metals.
That information was confirmed by Arequipa Gov. Rohel Sanchez, who said the company met all the legal requirements.
“If there was some situation that departed from the regulatory framework, the investigation” will discover those irregularities, he added. EFE