Mine Explosion Kills 1, Injures 36 in Ecuador

Rescue workers on Tuesday ruled out rumors that dozens of miners were trapped in a powerful explosion at a gold mine that killed one worker and injured 36 more, Ecuadorean officials said.

Army Col. Armando Balcazar told a news conference at the site of the explosion in Ponce Enriquez, in southern Ecuador, that all miners were accounted for — backing away from earlier official reports 60 were trapped.

Monday evening's explosion occurred in the Liga de Oro mine's munitions storehouse, which Balcazar said contained some 100 sticks of dynamite. He blamed the blast on "human error" by the 25-year-old miner who was killed.

"We were leaving the cafeteria when we heard the first explosion, and everyone started to scream and tell us to run away," miner Jose Acosta, 23, told The Associated Press. "A second, stronger explosion came that hurt our ears."

Balcazar said almost half of the mining camp's buildings were destroyed and two of the 36 injured were in serious but stable condition.

The death toll would likely have been higher had the explosion not happened at the end of the workday, when most workshops and warehouses were empty, said Carlos Salinas, a Civil Defense official in charge of rescue efforts.

"If not, imagine the tragedy," Salinas told the AP.

Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea said Monday that 60 miners had been trapped by the blast, but later investigation proved that incorrect.