New cave-in cumbers Chilean mine rescue, president shortens Colombia visit

14:35, August 08, 2010      

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Chilean President Sebastian Pinera cut short his visit to Colombia to devote himself to the rescue of 33 miners trapped in a copper mine, but a new cave-in blocked the rescue work there Saturday.

The miners were trapped Thursday in a collapse in the "San Jose" mine, 40 km from the northern city of Copiapo. They were 300 meters down in the mine that stretches seven kilometers.

Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said Saturday that rescue teams had begun to enter the accident mine well through ventilation tunnels and were expected to descend to a depth of 300 meters underground in the hope of finding any survivors.

Yet the new cave-in added difficulty for the rescue work which had been going on in an orderly way.

"The easiest, most logical way is now blocked. Experts have to find other alternatives, but those will be tougher and take longer time," said Golborne, as already anguished relatives cried in despair when they heard about this setback.

"I feel very sorry, because the pause of rescuing them is not what we have expected," said Wilson Avalos, whose two nephews were trapped underground, adding that he would not leave before he saw them rescued.

Chilean Minister of Labor Camila Merino expressed great hope on Friday that the missing would survive. According to her, there was oxygen for 72 hours and food in the well as well as ventilation facilities.

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