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Robot Sent for Information on Trapped Miners

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Melody Kokoszka, NPR
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Melody Kokoszka, NPR
A couple walks Tuesday to the Sago Baptist Church

A couple walks Tuesday to the Sago Baptist Church, where family members of trapped miners are gathered. Reuters hide caption

toggle caption Reuters

Rescue workers have drilled a hole into a West Virginia mine where 13 miners have been trapped for more than 24 hours. A camera-equipped robot was sent to search for signs of life. Officials say results of air-quality tests are discouraging. Emily Corio of West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Early today rescue workers drilled a hole into a West Virginia mine where 13 miners have been trapped for more than 24 hours. Rescuers sent a camera-equipped robot into the mine to search for signs of life. Ben Hatfield is chief executive officer of the mine's owner, International Coal Group, Inc. He described the operation.

Mr. BEN HATFIELD (CEO, International Coal Group, Inc.): At approximately 5:38 AM, the drill hole penetrated the Sago mine near where the trapped miners were thought to be. While the drill still remained in the hole, drill crew pounded on the steel and then listened for a response. They repeated this process several times over a 10-minute period, but the drill crew heard no response.

MONTAGNE: Ben Hatfield said officials tested the air quality in the mine for carbon monoxide. He said the results of those tests are not encouraging.

Mr. HATFIELD: While we're very disappointed by the information we've received thus far, we remain determined to continue the search so long as there is hope and hope remains.

MONTAGNE: That's Ben Hatfield of the International Coal Group.

Emily Corio of West Virginia Public Broadcasting is near the site of the Sago mine and she joins me on the line.

And, Emily, those high levels of carbon monoxide more than could sustain life as he--Ben Hatfield said earlier. It sounds like the situation is pretty dire.

EMILY CORIO reporting:

Yeah. The mood here is really somber today. I can definitely tell a difference from yesterday. The families are all staying up at the shelter, which is a Baptist Church here in the small community of Sago. And they're really not letting the media come anywhere close to the families. And just what I'm hearing from other people is that the families are very upset right now.

MONTAGNE: Now the hope he spoke of is that maybe the miners had barricaded themselves away from the tainted air. So what is the latest on the rescue effort? Is that what they're looking for?

CORIO: Well, we're waiting for an update from the company actually. In probably just about a half an hour, we'll get an update from the company on what the latest efforts are. I'm not sure about that at this point. The only information I know is the information that was released at the press conference earlier this morning.

MONTAGNE: So we'd like to play some tape now that you gathered from the Sago Baptist Church yesterday. It's across from the mine. It's Loretta Ables, whose fiance, Fred Ware, is one of the trapped miners.

Ms. LORETTA ABLES: Well, this is his second time with the mines caving in on him. The first time his ribs got broke and put through his lungs. His ankle was broke clear in two. He's got bolts in his ankle. Another guy here just last week got a piece of metal go through his forehead. They know that gas was in that mine. Fred told them that gas was there. He told them last week and they didn't do nothing about it. And now this happened.

MONTAGNE: So we hear there that the miners themselves were worried, and I understand that the Sago mine has a history of alleged safety violations. Tell us about those citations.

CORIO: Right. Well, just in December alone there were violations concerning roof control plans and also other safeguards. And a lot of people here that are related to the miners who are trapped were voicing those concerns, that their loved ones had expressed some concern about the safety of this mine.

MONTAGNE: Emily Corio of West Virginia Public Broadcasting joining us from outside the Sago mine. Thanks very much, Emily.

CORIO: Thank you.

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