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Rescuers begin search for 14 trapped Mexican miners

By the CNN Wire Staff
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14 trapped in Mexico mine blast
  • NEW: Mexico's labor secretary says Chilean experts will visit the site Wednesday
  • NEW: In a Twitter post, he says the mine had 25 employees and had operated for 20 days
  • NEW: Rescuers plan to work all night at the mine, located in northern Mexico
  • The fate of the miners inside is unknown

(CNN) -- Rescue efforts were starting Tuesday night at a mine in northern Mexico where 14 workers were trapped after an explosion, authorities said.

A local civil protection official said toxic gases had dissipated enough to allow rescuers to begin exploring the mine's tunnels, the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

Rescuers will work all night at the mine, and Chilean experts will visit the site Wednesday to help, Mexican Labor Secretary Javier Lozano Alarcon said in a post on his Twitter account.

An explosion occurred Tuesday morning at the mine, located just outside Sabinas, Mexico, Mayor Jesus Montemayor Garza said.

By Tuesday night, authorities had not determined whether the miners inside were alive.

A 15-year-old worker was seriously injured in the blast. He was transported to a hospital and had both arms amputated, Mexico's attorney general's office said in a statement.

Lozano took a critical tone in another Twitter post, as rescue operations began, saying "having a minor working here" was a "fault of the owner of this 'mine.'"

Lozano said the mine had only been operating for 20 days and had 25 workers who were not unionized.

The owner of the mine is a company known as Binsa, the statement from Mexico's attorney general's office said.

"It's very painful for us," Montemayor said. "At this time we don't know if the 14 miners trapped are dead or alive. It's going to be a complicated operation because of the way the mine shaft was built."

The shaft at the mine is 60 meters (197 feet) deep, he said.

Sixteen rescuers from the Coahuila state civil protection agency were working at the site, and 20 other rescuers were in the area ready to relieve the first group, the mayor said.

Federal authorities are investigating what caused the explosion, the attorney general's office said.

Sabinas is in the coal production center of Mexico and has a museum dedicated to the history of coal mining.

Several chapters of that history, however, have been tragic.

In 2006, in the nearby town of San Juan de Sabinas, 65 miners perished after an explosion in the mine where they were working. Explosive gas inside the mine hindered the rescue of the miners at the Pasta de Conchos mine, which the government eventually abandoned.

Cristina Auerbach, a representative of an association representing families of miners who were killed in 2006, said the army had surrounded the area of Tuesday's blast.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said federal authorities were working with state officials to coordinate the rescue effort.

"We are praying that they are alive, and we are working and doing everything possible that is within our reach to rescue them," he said, according to Notimex.

CNN's Rafael Romo contributed to this report.