Rescuers Try to Reach Coal Miners in Utah
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Hundreds of rescuers converged on an area where a mine collapsed in Utah in hopes of freeing six trapped coal miners. But so far there's been no contact with the miners and no indication if the men are still alive. The mine is located near the town of Huntington, about 140 miles south of Salt Lake City.
NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.
CARRIE KAHN: Throughout the night, rescuers used heavy equipment and huge drills to try and reach the six men trapped inside the mine. Robert E. Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp, which is part owner of the Crandall Canyon mine, said rescue crews were drilling into the mine vertically from the mountaintop and horizontally from the side.
Mr. ROBERT E. MURRAY (Murray Energy Corp): And the idea is to get a hole in to where they are. They can be in a chamber in there that's a thousand feet long or they could be dead.
KAHN: Murray tried to be hopeful. He said the mine is stocked with water and plenty of air leaks into the mine naturally. However, by evening falling debris was stalling rescuers' attempts to reach the miners. Murray said he was giving the families of the six men constant updates on the rescue efforts.
Mr. MURRAY: We're doing all we can. We never do enough. You never know if you've done all you should. But we're doing the best we can and we're keeping them informed - well informed.
KAHN: A steady stream of pickup trucks pulled into the senior center nearby Huntington late into the evening. That's where the miners' families and friends gathered to wait for news.
Veronica Ordiner(ph) was chain-smoking outside the center waiting for a call from her husband Cody. He was on one of the first rescue teams sent after the mine collapsed early yesterday morning. The call came just as the sun dropped behind the mountain outside Huntington. Ordiner squealed as she recognized her husband's ring tone. She had only enough time to say I love you before the connection was lost.
Ms. VERONICA ORDINER (Wife of Rescue Worker): And I just barely got to talk to him, he's on mine rescue. And I'm on my way home to hug my baby. He's a hero and I love him.
KAHN: Ordiner's mother-in-law, Cathy Eastman(ph), broke into tears at the news that her son was okay.
Ms. CATHY EASTMAN: Oh, man. Relief.
KAHN: That must have been a horrible week.
Ms. EASTMAN: Yeah.
KAHN: You know what these families are going through then.
Ms. EASTMAN: Definitely. Yeah, I really pray for them. I will definitely pray for them.
KAHN: Eastman says the town will pull together for the miners' families, just as it did more than 20 years ago when a fire in a nearby mine claimed the lives of 27 people. Many residents said the Crandall Canyon mine is one of the safest around, but according to records from the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, inspectors have issued more than 300 citations in the past three years.
While more then 100 of those citations were considered significant, Bruce Dial, a former inspector with the agency, says the company's record was not unusual.
Mr. BRUCE DIAL (Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration): They'd had citations, but nothing that would stick out that would show that they had a real problem with roof control in that area, at that mine.
KAHN: Scientists are still debating whether an earthquake caused the mine to cave in or whether it was the mine's collapse that produced seismic waves early Monday morning.
University of Utah seismologist Walter Arabasz says while the data is still being analyzed, it looks like the cave-in caused the shock waves.
Mr. WALTER ARABASZ (University of Utah): Our best judgment is that a collapse-type event produced the magnitude 3.9 earthquake that we recorded and reported.
KAHN: Crews worked through the night bulldozing a road outside the mine to bring in a drilling rig. They want to punch holes large enough to send air down to where the men are trapped. Utah governor Jon Huntsman says every effort is being exhausted to reach the miners.
Governor JON HUNTSMAN, JR. (Republican, Utah): I just want all Utahans to know that our thoughts and prayers, of course, are with the six individuals and their families. Everything that can be done is being done - and of course that will continue. And our thoughts and prayers obviously will be ongoing until this is wrapped up.
KAHN: Company officials are offering no promises, but say that at the current pace it could be another two or three days before rescuers reach the men.
Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Huntington, Utah.
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