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March 31, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
At Least 4 Die in Bolivian Landslide
Four People Confirmed Dead After Landslide Buries Mining Village in Bolivia

The Associated Press


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LA PAZ, Bolivia March 31

A landslide buried a goldmining village in Bolivia's tropical lowlands Monday, leaving four dead and seven injured in a tragedy that authorities say may claim hundreds of lives once rescue personnel begin excavation.

Survivors spent the afternoon digging through a mountain of mud, rock and muck that collapsed Monday morning above Chima, a village 125 miles (190 kilometers) north of La Paz.

"We've confirmed that seven people have escaped the disaster and of four of them have died, "said Toridio Mercado, deputy mayor of Tipuani, a neighboring village with a medical clinic receiving the injured.

"The situation is urgent. We don't have even the basis resources," Mercado said. "We have two doctors and they need gauze, syringes, plaster and body bags."

Grieving family members waited for emergency crews to arrive from La Paz, a 12 hour trip down a treacherous highway itself prone to landslides and other natural disasters.

Authorities in La Paz scrambled to determine the magnitude of the disaster. The goldmine's only form of communication is a small radio.

"It's clear there are people injured, missing and some dead," said Oscar Mina, head of La Paz's public security unit. "But the big problem is all the confusion this has caused. We've received all types of information."

Mina said the governor of La Paz has sent a group of rescue specialists to assess the seriousness of the accident.

Nearly all of the men in the 1,800-strong community of Chima were working in the mines when the mountain collapsed.

One of the few buildings spared by the landslide was the village schoolhouse where "the children will lamentably no longer live with fathers," Mercado said.

Officials working in the medical clinic said seven men had been transported in the back of pickup trucks to a clinic suffering from a broken back, a fractured skull and a split sternum.

Original radio reports said 400 homes had been buried in the landslide, with 700 missing.

Later radio dispatches said the first reports were exaggerated.

"I want to insist, the disaster is not of the enormous magnitude as we at first thought," said Amadeo Herrera, a resident of Chima who spoke on La Paz radio station Fides. "But we have to let the authorities know, because someday it might be."

Chima is a 70-year-old goldmining village with 1,800 inhabitants located in Bolivia's jungle lowlands. Two years ago it suffered a similar landslide that left eight dead. Authorities say that mining tunnels have continually undermined the mountain and put it at risk of collapse.


photo credit and caption:
A landslide buried hundreds of homes in a mining town in northern Bolivia Monday, March 31, 2003, and officials say a large number of residents are missing. (AP Graphics)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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