Four miners were trapped underground after part of a silver and gold mine collapsed yesterday in southwestern Ecuador near the border with Peru, government officials said.
A civil defense official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the miners were believed to be alive because they were located in an area far enough away from the collapse, though rescuers have been unable to contact them.
Rescue workers were already trying to identify the best approach to rescue the men, whose accident in the mine near the Ecuadoran town of Portovelo comes after the successful rescue this week of 33 miners trapped for almost 70 days in Chile's San Jose mine.
"Four miners are trapped at the fifth level of the mine, roughly 150 meters (500 feet) down," the source said.
The miners were trapped after a collapse at 3:00 am local time (0800 GMT) yesterday, the source said.
Deputy mining minister Jorge Espinosa later identified the men as a senior mine official, his brother who is a machine operator, and two laborers.
"It seems there was an increase in the amount of underground water," Mr Espinosa told reporters, causing some of the gallery supports to buckle and "blocking any chance for an exit."
Mr Espinosa added that officials still do not know the condition of the miners.
The miners are believed to be inside a galley 60 metres, two metres high and 2.5 metres wide. The air and water shafts leading to the gallery are blocked, according to local press reports.
The mine, located 405 kilometres southeast of Quito, is owned by the local company Minesadco. Some 50 people work at the site.