Sabinas, Mexico — Authorities said Thursday intensified efforts to rescue 10 miners trapped in a collapsed and flooded coal mine in northern Mexico, involving hundreds of people.
Officials said the collapse occurred Wednesday after miners rushed into a nearby water-filled area. Since the collapse, authorities have not reported any contact with the trapped miners.
Miners were trapped between two 200-foot-deep mines, more than half of which were flooded, Deputy Defense Minister Agustín Rádiala Suástegui said Thursday. Rescuers are trying to get water out of the flooded mine.
A National Guard plane is expected to arrive Thursday with six special forces divers who can enter the mine if conditions permit.
Civil protection coordinator Laura Velázquez said five miners managed to escape the collapse. Three of them are still hospitalized. Authorities initially reported nine trapped miners on Wednesday, but revised that number to 10 on Thursday.
The mine is located in Sabinas, approximately 70 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas. The mine started operations this year, and the local government said it had not received any complaints or reports of previous incidents.
Relatives of trapped miners waited in the shade outside the mine more than 24 hours after the collapse. Police and soldiers armed with rifles restricted access to the mine.
Alfredo Torres, the cousin of one of the trapped miners, said he had been volunteering with rescue efforts since Wednesday. Wearing a plastic helmet and his clothes and boots covered in dirt, he said they had been using small pumps to draw water from the flooded shaft since the previous day, but the water level remained high.
“No one can go in,” Torres said. “We have to first try to get all the water out and then get it out so the miners can go in and rescue their colleagues. So far, there has been no contact with the trapped miners,” he said.
He said he still hoped to find them alive, but admitted “hours have passed and the water level is still high.”
A chapel has been set up outside the mine where families can pray for the miners to be rescued.
Bishop Alonso Garza of the Diocese of Piedras Negras complained that conditions for miners remained poor and called on the government and companies to improve safety. “Every time a tragedy like this happens, they say yes, unfortunately not now.”
Landslides at two Coahuila mines claimed the lives of nine miners in June and July 2021.
The worst mining accident in Mexico also occurred in Coahuila on February 19, 2006, when 73 miners exploded inside the Pasta de Conchos mine. Eight people were rescued with injuries, including severe burns. The rest were dead, and only two bodies were found.
Lopez Obrador’s government pledged two years ago to recover the remaining 63 bodies, a highly technical job that has yet to begin.
The Pasta de Conchos family group, which is made up of relatives who lost their lives in that tragedy, said in a statement late Wednesday that the new mining accident showed that the structural danger that led to Pasta de Conchos’ collapse had not yet been addressed. Lack of inspections, complicity with mining companies and little protection for workers.
They called on the government to do everything possible to rescue the miners and review mining conditions in the area.