Source AP ©

Explosion in gold mine in Ecuador kills 1 miner and entraps 60 underground

An explosion in a gold mine in southern Ecuador killed at least one miner, injured dozens and trapped 60 people underground.

Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea said about 60 miners were trapped after the blast in the village of Ponce Enriquez, 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of Quito . He said the mine was run by a local cooperative with "limited safety" measures in place.

"It was an explosion in the mine - we still don't know the cause - and the injured are being taken to Machala," a nearby town, Larrea told Channel 1 television. He did not say how many people were injured.

A policeman at the Ponce Enriquez station, Jose Pazmino, told The Associated Press by telephone the explosion occurred at 7 p.m. local time in the Liga de Oro mine's munitions storehouse, "but at the moment we don't know what set off the blast."

He said that so far there was one confirmed death and 40 miners injured - many seriously.

"Everyone from Machala is in the mountains, where the mine is, trying to help in any way they can," Pazmino said. He said police were also on the scene.

Machala is 15 minutes away from the mine by vehicle, but the explosion was so powerful it could be heard in the town's center, said Machala firefighter Segundo Guillen.

Guillen said rescue efforts have been suspended for the night because "it is very dark, and we will begin the search again in the morning."

Larrea promised an immediate response from the governemnt.

"We expect that in the coming hours we will be able to offer help to those buried in the mine," the interior minister said.

The explosion "demonstrates the need for responsible mining in Ecuador ," Larrea said.

The minister didn't give any figures on the number of dead or injured.