April 1, 2003
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- A landslide buried hundreds of homes in a mining town in northern Bolivia on Monday, and officials say a large number of residents are missing.
The landslide in the town of Chima buried about 400 houses, La Paz Gov. Mateo Laura told the television network Unitel.
Jose Plata, an official of the local mining cooperatives, told Radio Fides of La Paz that many Chima residents are missing. He said hundreds of people may be affected, but government officials did not give an exact figure.
"We have suffered a tragedy this morning. The losses are impossible to calculate," Plata told the station.
Government officials say the disaster may have been caused by gold-mining operations that weakened a nearby mountain.
Plata said the landslide also buried almost all the equipment and machinery used by miners in the town 125 miles north of La Paz. The town is in a tropical area where landslides are common.
The government said rescue personnel, equipment and food were being sent to the area, but that could take many hours because of bad roads. There are no landing strips in the area.
Plata said dozens of children returned home from school only to find the destruction and that their parents were missing.
A number of wounded rescued from the rubble were rushed to a hospital in the nearby town of Caranavi, he said.
"We ask authorities to send a helicopter to check the damage so they will see we are not exaggerating," Plata added.