Colombia leader to halt Europe trip over mine blast

27th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced Thursday he would cut short his stay at the Davos forum and head home to deal with a mining tragedy which he said has left nearly 20 dead.

The Colombian leader, who is attending the annual gathering of the world's political and business elite in the Swiss Alps, said he would fly on Friday to Cucuta, capital of the province where the explosion took place.

"I have decided to bring forward my return and tomorrow I will return home directly to accompany families of the victims," he told reporters.

Santos had initially planned to stay in Switzerland until Saturday.

The Colombian leader said that according to the latest information available to him, the death toll stood "at nearly 20".

He has ordered the closure of the site in northwestern Norte de Santander province, where 32 people were killed in 2007 and another six died in October, as authorities conduct an investigation.

It was not immediately clear how many miners were trapped because the explosion on Wednesday ripped through the mine during a 6:30 am (1130 GMT) shift change, officials at the scene.

The blast may have been caused by an accumulation of methane gas, according to Norte de Santander provincial authorities.

© 2011 AFP

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