Relatives of 10 workers trapped at a flooded coal mine in northern Mexico clung to hope they were alive Friday, almost 48 hours after a collapse sparked a major rescue effort.
Family members spent a second night anxiously awaiting news following the recent disaster that struck Mexico’s main coal-producing region in the state of Coahuila.
“I’m desperate because I don’t know what’s going to happen and when I’ll see him again,” said Jesus Mireles Romo, whose father was among the missing.
“But I have faith that it’s going to be alright, that they’re all coming out,” he told AFP, his eyes red from crying.
The 24-year-old rushed to the mine at Agujita in Sabinas municipality with his two brothers on Wednesday to try to help the victims before the authorities took over and has not left since.
“It hurts to see your children who do not lose hope of seeing their father again,” said his mother Claudia Romo, 45.
Five miners were able to escape after Wednesday’s collapse, but no survivors have been found since.
Around 230 army and other government employees have been dispatched to the site, which is about 1,130 kilometers (700 miles) north of Mexico City, according to the Defense Department.
– ‘Work tirelessly’ –
Soldiers and rescue workers worked under floodlights all night to pump water out of the mine to try to make access safe enough.
Authorities said the three mine shafts went down 60 meters (200 feet) and the flood water inside was 30 meters deep — slightly lower than the previous day.
“It’s important to lower the water level … to allow safe access for specialized search and rescue personnel,” said Laura Velazquez, national civil defense coordinator.
“We are working tirelessly to save the 10 trapped miners,” she said.
Family members cried and comforted each other as the hope of finding survivors dwindled by the hour.
“We want them to recover the bodies,” Angelica Montelongo said with a sad and weary look before feeling new hope that her brother Jaime could be saved.
“But hey, God willing, right? You have to trust that they are alive,” she said.
Experts and relatives painted a picture of a precarious and risky profession that extracts coal from the mines with lax safety standards.
“There’s always job insecurity … and danger,” said Blasa Maribel Navarro, whose cousin Sergio Cruz mined coal for several years to support his two daughters.
Navarro said she still hopes to see him alive “because we trust in God.”
– accident history –
Roughly constructed mines like the one that collapsed don’t have concrete reinforcements to protect workers from a collapse, engineering expert Guillermo Iglesias said.
The miners “dig a shaft two meters in diameter and keep digging until they reach a small layer of coal,” he told local radio.
The only thing supporting the surrounding earth is usually a large plastic tube that workers enter through, he added.
The Coahuila state government said miners were digging when they encountered an adjacent area full of water, causing the shaft to collapse and flood.
Coahuila has seen a number of fatal mining accidents over the years.
Last year, seven miners died when trapped in the region.
The worst accident was an explosion that killed 65 people at the Pasta de Conchos mine in 2006.
Only two bodies have been recovered following this tragedy, and the families have repeatedly called on the Mexican authorities to recover them.
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