Survival chances slim for trapped Chilean miners

16:56, August 13, 2010      

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Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said said Thursday that he still hopes the 33 miners trapped in a collapsed copper-gold mine in northern Chile can be rescued, although their survival chances appear slim.

"We have done everything that is humanly possible, we have spared no effort, and thus I still hold the hope that this huge effort will end the way we all want it to finish," Pinera said, adding that they would continue to do everything they could despite the fact that it had been a week since the accident.

"I have hope that the miners are alive and are listening to every strike of the sounding machine," he said.

But also on Thursday from the rescue scene, Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne struck a less optimistic tone, calling the survival chances for the miners "low." However, "we have been working very hard (to rescue the miners)," he said.

The mine, owned by the San Esteban mining company, collapsed last Thursday in the Atacama desert, some 880 km north of capital Santiago.

A total of 33 miners have been missing since then. The rescuers have been trying to use sounding equipment to establish contact with them and send oxygen, food and water.

However, so far progress has been slow.

Among other experts, rescue operation leader Golborne said to reach a depth of 700 meters, the excavation work will take more than three months, but the water and food available for the trapped miners was only sufficient for three days.

Authorities hoped that the miners were taking shelter somewhere in the deepest part of the mine, about 700 meters underground, with supplies expected to last 48 to 72 hours.

"First of all we must make contact (with the miners) and then look for alternatives to get them out," Golborne said.

"It has been a very hard experience that has ups and downs, pain and grief, frustration and fury for not being able to easily access these miners and not even to know whether they are alive or not," he said.

Source: Xinhua


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