Hope fades for families of trapped Mexican miners

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Almost 600 desperate family members and others remained camped outside the Pasta de Conchos coal mine near San Juan de Sabinas, in the northern Mexico state of Coahuila where 65 Mexican miners were trapped by a gas explosion around 2:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) Sunday. Some are threatening to storm the mine while soldiers are trying to keep them calm and rescuers continue to pick through the rock and debris with hand tools, fearing that any power equipment might set off another explosion.

The local newspaper's headline caused panic by quoting one of over a dozen surviving miners who were close enough to the exits to escape: "They are surely dead," (La Prensa de Monclova). However, Arturo Vilchis, Civil Protection Director, refused to speculate on the condition of the miners, while Javier de la Fuente, an engineering contractor with mine owner Grupo México S.A. de C.V. also tried to hold out some hope.

The men were each supposed to be carrying oxygen tanks, each with a six hour supply, and there's some hope that they could reach other oxygen supply tanks, or that some air might be reaching them through the ventilation shafts into which rescuers have been pumping more oxygen since shortly after the explosion.

Juan Rebolledo, vice president of international affairs for Grupo México, assured onlookers that U.S. mining experts were on the way, and officials at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration have confirmed that they've sent a specialized equipment truck and several mining experts which should arrive at the mine site on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile Consuelo Aguilar, a spokeswoman for the National Miners' Union, called for an investigation into Grupo México's responsibility for the disaster. Pedro Camarillo, a federal labor official, said nothing unusual was found during a routine evaluation in early February.

Sources

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