Twenty two of the 26 miners who were trapped in a mine collapse in Nicaragua were rescued over the weekend. Rescue teams continued to search for the others, The Associated Press reported.
First Lady Rosario Murillo said 20 of the miners were freed late Friday, in addition to two who made their way to safety shortly after a Thursday morning collapse cut off the exit at the El Comal gold and silver mine in the town of Bonanza.
Rescued miner Marvin Urbina, 34, said he and some of his fellow miners saw an avalanche of mud and rock coming their way. They stuck to the walls of the mine but at least four of their co-workers were crushed by the mud and rock streaming down the shaft, he said.
Interior Vice Minister Carlos Najar said the miners were a bit dehydrated but in good health.
The miners were checked by paramedics and taken to a clinic in Bonanza, about 420 km (260 miles) northeast of Managua.
Hundreds of relatives and fellow miners had gathered to pray outside the mine as rescuers lined up several ladders along a 200-foot long tunnel leading toward where the men were trapped. The mine cuts into the side of a mountain and then goes upward.
Commander Javier Amaya of the rescue team said the rescue plan involved groups "of five or 10 miners entering the mine on wooden ladders, tying themselves off and going in until they reach them."
The gold and silver mine is on a concession held by Hemco, which is owned by Colombia-based Minero SA. But the trapped miners themselves are freelancers allowed to work in the area if they sell any gold they find to the firm, mining company spokesman Gregorio Downs told The Associated Press.
Downs said the company had warned miners about the danger of working in the El Comal area, especially after two miners died in a rain-caused landslide there last month.
According to the Hemco's website, the company has mined in the north Atlantic municipality since 1995 and employs 532 workers, who process 700 tons of material a day. The company says it produces more than 2,500 pounds (1,150 kilograms, 37,000 troy ounces) of gold a year and is