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Hopes fade for trapped Mexican miners

TORREON—Mexican officials reported little hope Wednesday of finding survivors of an explosion in a coal mine in northern Mexico, as five of 14 trapped miners were confirmed dead.

Labor Minister Javier Lozano reported a fifth body pulled out early Wednesday on social network Twitter.

"There are no signs of life and the outlook is bad," Lozano told Televisa TV network. "Experts say there is almost no chance that they could have survived."

The strong blast, which officials blamed on methane gas, also struck a teenager who was working outside the mine and later had to have his arms amputated, investigators said.

The explosion occurred early Tuesday at the mine near the town of Sabinas, in northern Coahuila state near the US border and the site of a 2006 mine explosion which left 65 dead.

It provoked new criticism of officials over failings in mine safety, as well as the inability to recover most of the bodies from the blast in 2006.

Several rescue workers managed to enter the small mine some 60 meters (yards) deep but were hampered in their efforts due to methane emissions, officials said.

Anxious families gathered outside the Mexican mine, as rescue efforts picked up Wednesday.

President Felipe Calderon meanwhile said he had ordered the Attorney General's Office to open an investigation into the explosion.

The mine had been operating in precarious conditions with 15 workers for only 18 days and its legal status needed to be checked, Lozano told Televisa Wednesday.

"They didn't even tell us they had started to operate," he said.

The miners, metalworkers and steelworkers union on Tuesday urged the government to take stronger action against companies who do not take sufficient safety measures.

A 2006 explosion in the Pasta de Conchos mine, also near Sabinas, killed 65 miners. Only two of those bodies have been recovered.

A team of Chilean experts was due to arrive Wednesday, despite little hope now for a miraculous rescue like that of the 33 Chilean miners trapped for 69 days more than 600 meters underground last year.

Source: Inquirer
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