Rescuers attempting to save three dozen people believed to still be trapped inside a collapsed Indonesia gold mine brought in an excavator Friday to speed up the process, amid fears their oxygen supply is running out.
The desperation move is being made at the unlicensed mine in North Sulawesi's Bolaang Mongondow district despite the risk of triggering a landslide. The mine collapsed Tuesday night, killing eight, while 20 people so far have been pulled out of the rubble, a local disaster official said.
Abdul Muin Paputungan told the Associated Press that the dozens of emergency workers on-scene "never stop praying that all those still trapped in the mine are able to survive until we can rescue them."
Paputungan says the excavator began working on the site Friday morning after relatives gave permission and a path was cleared through steep jungle terrain.
Food and water has been passed to some of those trapped but officials are concerned oxygen is dwindling in parts of the mine. Photographs taken at the site depict rescue workers using makeshift stretchers to haul victims to a nearby settlement.
The mine originally collapsed due to shifting soil and a large number of mining holes in the region. Informal mining operations are commonplace in Indonesia, providing a tenuous livelihood to thousands who labor in conditions with a high risk of serious injury or death.
On Thursday, a trapped miner's leg was amputated to free him but the man died from blood loss while being carried out of the area.
A rescuer who amputated the leg of miner Teddy Mokodompit said he and his team crawled 40 feet into the mine to operate, the Kompas newspaper reported. The stuffy air was difficult to breath and the tunnel they were in vibrated, with soil and gravel falling on them, Laiya, who uses one name, told the newspaper.
"I and all my team members were crying while cutting his leg in the hole," he said. "We were worried that landslides will happen while we were inside."
The national disaster agency says more than 200 people from multiple agencies are involved in the rescue but frustration was growing among family members of trapped miners.
"The process to rescue only one person takes the whole day," said Amin Simbala, father of a buried miner. "Don't be concerned by this one person only, just get him out, if you need to amputate then amputate so others can still be saved."
Rescuers have used their bare hands and basic tools to search for the missing. They've fashioned stretchers from tree branches, twine and other material. Other photos showed a trapped miner's arms and head jutting through a gap in rocks and rescuers toiling each night in arduous conditions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.