LIMA (Reuters) - Heavy rain and equipment failure stalled efforts in Peru on Thursday to rescue seven miners who were trapped in a tunnel hundreds of meters (feet) below ground by a landslide three days ago, officials said.
Four of the men may already be dead, according to a miner who escaped on Tuesday, a day after the mine in the southern region of Arequipa was engulfed.
The breakdown of a generator used to power machinery cutting a path to the 200-metre (660 feet) deep tunnel added to fears that time was running out to find them alive.
Sounds coming from the miners stopped late on Wednesday, said regional mining official Vladimir Bustinza. "That's not a good sign," Bustinza told local broadcaster RPP.
Rescue efforts at the mine in the Acari district did not begin until early on Wednesday when word of the landslide reached emergency responders.
Attempts to reach the miners were then slowed by debris from landslides that blocked roads and a torrential downpour that delayed by several hours a helicopter bringing men and supplies.
A new generator and a submersible pump were needed urgently, said Jorge Martinez, a senior Arequipa firefighter.
The miner who escaped said he believed three of his seven colleagues were alive when he got out, according to regional health official Gustavo Rondon.
It was unclear who owns the mine, which is in an area where illegal and informal miners often dig for gold in precarious conditions. A mining ministry spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about who owns the rights to mine there.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has said the government was working with local officials to provide any support required.
Meliton Huaraca, the father of one of the trapped miners, pleaded with him to send more help.
"We want to take them home, dead or alive," Huaraca told local TV station Canal N. "I want to see my son again, please Mr. President."
(Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Daniel Wallis)