A building site worker died but his brother survived unharmed after both were buried in landslide that filled the trench in which they were working in Madrid.
The incident ovccurred just before 5pm when the two brothers, both Spaniards in their forties, were working inside a trench on a plot where a chalet is being built at number 55 Calle de Iquitos, in the San Blas district of the capital.
A third brother was also working at the site and witnessed the incident and later had to be treated by Samur psychologists after suffering an anxiety attack.
At the moment the accident happened, both brothers were working inside the metre and a half deep trench, which they had begun digging yesterday according to neighbours' statements.
It is thought the landslide occurred because the trench was not properly shored up and the surrounding earth was wet from the rain that fell the day before.
The chief firefighter, Juan Redondo, said it was an "absolute miracle" that one of the builders had emerged unharmed as he had been "imprisoned by about 20 cubic metres of earth and a cement slab".
"It was a miracle when the firefighter who was trying to find the buried men heard a voice. There was a small cavity with a pocket of air that had allowed one of them to carry on breathing and call for help", he explained.
He described the rescue effort as "very laborious" as it had to be carried out "by hand, with rakes rather than mechanical diggers so as to avoid harming the men further or causing another landslide".
The two brothers were close to one another under the earth. The one who died was actually closer to the surface than the other, who was trapped crouching down between a wall and a slab of cement, which had to be moved very carefully by the rescue workers.
Once they had located one of the men alive, they kept him supplied with oxygen and encouraged him to remain conscious during the three hours the rescue operation took. They did not tell him his brother had been pulled out dead just half an hour after the accident. Once he was able to get an arm out from under the earth, they put an intravenous line into him to supply him with warm saline solution as he showing signs of hypothermia.
Once rescued, he was transferred to hospital for routine checks, but appeared to have escaped serious injury. Emergency workers believe his brother suffocated to death, as his thorax had been crushed by the weight of the earth.
Health and safety inspectors with the main CCOO and UGT unions in Madrid visited the site and concurred that too many short cuts are being taken on building sites because of the economic situation and that workers lives are being put at risk.