Families Of Trapped Miners 'Desperate'

Relatives of miners wait, after a gas buildup in a coal mine triggered a pre-dawn explosion Monday Feb. 20, 2006 in the town of San Juan de Sabinas,Mexico 135 kilometers (85 miles) southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas trapping 65 coal miners underground with a limited supply of oxygen. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) AP

Relatives of 65 coal miners trapped underground by a gas explosion grew increasingly desperate and frustrated as rescue workers emerged from the pit with no news of their loved ones.

It was unlikely the miners were still alive, officials said Monday. But they maintained there was still a chance of finding survivors trapped by Sunday morning's explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine near the town of San Juan de Sabinas, 85 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas.

Some of the miners' family members, who had been camped outside the mine for more than 36 hours, called for rescue workers to give them more information.

"Tell us the truth!" a man shouted through a megaphone.

Jesus de Leon, 50, whose 35-year old son is trapped underground, said the wait was a torment for his son's mother and sister.

"If the rescue workers have advanced just one more meter we need to know about it," De Leon said. "They don't tell us anything."

Some relatives prayed with priests and pastors who joined them at the pit's entrance.

Women wept openly and swayed with their arms in the air and men wiped tears from their eyes.

"We are waiting for a miracle from God," said Norma Vitela, whose trapped husband, Jose Angel Guzman, had previously told her of problems with gas in the mine. She said the father of four, who earns 800 pesos — about $76 — a week, could not afford to quit.

CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan reports mining accidents are not uncommon here. The worst in recent memory killed 34 miners in 1988.

The trapped men had carried only six hours of oxygen, but officials said they believed a ventilation system that uses huge fans to pump in fresh air and suck out dangerous gases was still working. Even so, they could not be certain the precious oxygen was arriving to where the miners were trapped.

Juan Rebolledo, vice president of international affairs for mine owner Grupo Mexico, said oxygen tanks were scattered throughout the mine, but it was impossible to know if the trapped miners had access to any of them.
  • Gina Pace

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