SAMPINAS, Mexico — Efforts to rescue 10 miners trapped in a collapsed and flooded coal mine in northern Mexico intensified Thursday with hundreds of people joining the operation, authorities said.
The collapse occurred when miners broke into a nearby water-logged area on Wednesday, officials said. Authorities had reported no contact with the trapped miners after the collapse.
The miners are trapped between two 200-foot-deep shafts flooded with water, Defense Undersecretary Agustín Rádiala Suástegui said Thursday. Rescuers were working to pump water out of the flooded mine.
A National Guard aircraft was expected to arrive Thursday with six special forces divers who could enter the mine when conditions permit.
Civil Defense Coordinator Laura Velázquez said five miners managed to escape the collapse. Three of them remained in hospital. Authorities had initially reported nine trapped miners on Wednesday, but revised that number to 10 on Thursday.
The mine is located in Sabinas, about 70 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas. The mine began operations this year and the local government said it had received no complaints or reports of previous incidents.
More than 24 hours after the collapse, relatives of the trapped miners waited in the shade of a tree outside the mine. Police and soldiers with rifles restricted access to the mine.
Alfredo Torres, a cousin of one of the trapped miners, said he had been volunteering with the rescue effort since Wednesday. Wearing a plastic helmet and clothes and boots coated in mud, he said they had been using small pumps since the day before to remove water from the flooded wells, but the water remained high.
“Nobody can get in,” Torres said. “We have to try to pump out all the water first, get it out so the miners can get in to save their colleagues. He said that so far there has been no contact with the trapped miners.
He said he still hoped to find them alive, but acknowledged that “it has been many hours and the water is still very high.”
A small chapel was set up outside the mine where family members could pray for the rescue of the miners.
Bishop Alonso Garza from the diocese of Piedras Negras complained that conditions for miners are still poor and called on the government and companies to improve safety. “Every time a tragedy like this happens they say yes and unfortunately now no.”
In June and July 2021, cave-ins in two mines in Coahuila claimed the lives of nine miners.
Mexico’s worst mining accident also occurred in Coahuila on February 19, 2006, when an explosion ripped through the Pasta de Conchos mine while 73 miners were inside. Eight were rescued with injuries, including severe burns. The rest died and only two of their bodies were recovered.
The López Obrador administration promised two years ago to recover the remaining 63 bodies, a highly technical effort that has yet to begin.
The Pasta de Conchos Family Organization, made up of relatives of those lost in that tragedy, said in a statement late Wednesday that the new mine accident shows that the structural hazards that led to the Pasta de Conchos collapse have not been addressed. There is a lack of inspections, complicity with mining companies and little protection for workers.
They called on the government to do everything possible to save the miners and review the mining conditions in the area.