Nicaragua mine tragedy
Handout photo released by the Fundacion del Rio of the site of landslide at "La Esperanza" mine in Rio San Juan department, Nicaragua, on December 4, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Managua: Firemen, police and army troops scrambled on Saturday to find and rescue an unknown number of miners who were trapped by the collapse in southern Nicaragua of an unlicensed gold mine, the authorities said.

The accident occurred in the La Esperanza region, more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of the capital Managua.

The official radio Nueva Ya said Friday that at least 10 people were trapped, while news media cited numbers ranging from seven to 18.

"We're working to rescue our brothers who may be in that collapse," local government official Johnny Gutierrez said.

Amaru Ruiz, director of the nonprofit Fundacion del Rio, told AFP that the accident occurred on a hillside honeycombed by tunnels dug over the years for several unlicensed mines on private property.

An estimated 3,000 people work in Nicaragua's unlicensed mines.

Months of rain - including the devastating passage last month of hurricanes Eta and Iota - had saturated and weakened the clayey land, contributing to the collapse, Ruiz added.

Landslides last month in northern Nicaragua claimed at least seven lives.