At least 23 coal miners died in an explosion Saturday in two adjacent mines in a village in northeastern Colombia, an official said on Sunday.

Recovery operations were continuing to find the bodies of eight more men believed to have been in the mines at the time of the blast, which occurred late Saturday morning, said Fernando Rosales, head of Civil Defense for Northern Norte de Santander province.

The bodies were located within 600 meters (1,969 feet) of the entrance to the mines, he said. "Recovery work has been a bit quicker this morning; the mine is much cleaner," he said, adding that the remaining bodies were expected to be recovered later in the day.

The government mines ministry oversees the operation at the mines -- La Preciosa and La Siete, which are located in the remote village of San Roque, about 250 miles north of Bogota. The workers are self-employed.

A spark from an unknown source apparently ignited gas inside the mine, officials said.

One miner who was pulled alive from near a tunnel entrance later died, police said.

                                                                                          [CNN NEWS]

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