Disasters & Accidents

Mexico adopts new plan to rescue 10 trapped miners

Mexico City, Aug 15 (EFE).- The Mexican government on Monday announced a new plan to rescue the 10 miners trapped in the Sabinas coal mine, in the northern state of Coahuila, after new flooding complicated rescue operations scheduled for the weekend.

After reducing the water level in the Pinabete mine, which flooded after a wall separating it from the adjacent abandoned Conchas Norte mine collapsed, rescue workers were ready to enter the mine on Sunday but new flooding foiled that plan, Laura Velazquez, the national coordinator for Civil Protection, said.

The authorities’ new plan, she said, includes continuing to pump out the water in the mine, identifying areas in the mine with cavities or vacant spaces, drilling 20 6-inch-wide boreholes to a depth of 60 meters (197 feet) in the Conchas Norte mine and injecting cement to create a barrier to prevent the flow of water between the mines.

“At 4 in the morning we had 1.30 meters of water and we were preparing to enter via Well No. 2, but this sudden entry (of water) made us halt the whole plan … and we had to get started on another plan,” she said at the government’s daily press conference to provide updates on the situation.

The Mexican government last Friday announced that the conditions had been created whereby rescue workers could enter the mine to save the miners trapped since 1:35 pm on Aug. 3, when the original flooding occurred, cutting them off underground.

But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged on Monday complications in the Conchas Norte mine, which has been abandoned since 1996.

“We were going good. Unfortunately, the mine collapsed even more, and moreover a hole opened up from the adjacent abandoned mine, which is the one where more water is collecting, and when we were once again reducing the water in the coal mine where the 10 miners are trapped the water volume once again began increasing,” he said.

The government, which has deployed more than 600 military and civilian personnel in the area, has pumped out more than 249,000 cubic meters (about 8.8 million cubic feet) of water to be able to get in to the trapped miners in the Pinabete mine, but officials discuvered that the Conchas Norte mine has some 1.9 million cubic meters of water in it.

“I’ve given instructions to intensify the whole rescue plan. They’re pumping about 290 liters (77 gallons) per second. We’re going to increase the pumping and the mining engineers are making a proposal to create a type of barrier between the two mines,” the president said.

The mine collapse has renewed the controversy in Mexico about the operation of coal mines in the region, where more than 100 miners have died, according to the Familia Pasta de Conchos, which represents the relatives of the men who died in the 2006 collapse of the mine of that name.

Meanwhile, Lopez Obrador said that experts are assessing whether to request the aid of international rescue teams, if necessary, to be able to extract the trapped miners.

“We’re not ruling out (the help of international rescue teams) and anything else we have to do to get the miners out. And the families are right, they want their loved ones back,” he commented at his daily press conference.

Relatives of the trapped miners on the weekend called for the help of international rescue teams, denouncing what they said was the slowness of Mexican authorities to resolve the situation.

Velazquez said that the procedures to request international help would not be difficult, noting that “Fortunately, we have good relations with the governments of the world and we can perform those procedures.”

Lopez Obrador said that before requesting international help, Mexican authorities want to see “if it’s needed … (and) if the (new) strategy that’s being followed is going to work.”

EFE ppc-jsm/csr/lll-jrh/bp

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