Contact with trapped Utah miners possible in two days: official

Rescuers could contact six miners trapped underground in Utah within two days, an official said Wednesday, but it was still unknown whether the men survived the tunnel collapse that buried them more than 48 hours earlier.

Contact with trapped Utah miners possible in two days: official
After rescue operations ground to a halt late Tuesday following seismic activity at the remote Genwal Mine in Crandall Canyon, hopes of finally drilling a narrow shaft through to the men increased early Wednesday.

Robert Murray, a director of Utah American Energy which operates the mine, situated in a mountainous region 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Salt Lake City, said a giant drill had bored to within 300 meters (1,000 feet) of the men.

While Murray repeated his assertion that it would take at least a week to dig through to the men themselves, a shaft which would provide better ventilation and food could reach the men by Friday.

"As of 7:00 am this morning, the two-and-a-half inch hole from the drilling rigs brought in by helicopter was down 450 feet (137 metres) on the 1,500-foot path to where we know the miners are trapped," Murray told a news conference.

"In two days, if they continue at this pace, that hole will be down to where we want it to be," he said.

Murray cautioned however that it was possible the drill may strike a coal seam rather than the cavern where the men were presumed to be. If that happened, the drilling would have to start again from scratch, he said.

The six miners have not been heard from since the cave-in occurred at around 3:50 am Monday (0850 GMT) following an earthquake.

The workers were believed to be located in a chamber around 450 meters (1,500 feet) underground, and were around 600 meters (2,000 feet) from their nearest rescuers.

By late Tuesday rescuers had advanced only 95 meters (310 feet) towards the men since efforts to reach them began early Monday.

However that progress was scuppered by seismic tremors, Murray said. "We are back to square one."

Murray was adamant that the cave-in was caused by an earthquake, despite claims from some geologists that the tunnel collapse was in fact the cause of locally recorded seismic tremors.

"From our mining experience, we know this was an earthquake," Murray said.

"It seems to me the media are more concerned about trying to place blame than they are about the families and the actual rescue effort underground," he added.

The rescue operation has revived memories of the doomed effort to reach 13 miners who were trapped after an explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia in January last year.

Twelve miners died and only one survived after being buried underground for 41 hours.

Last Mod: 08 Ağustos 2007, 23:19
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