Skip to main content

Hope runs out for miners trapped in Mexican mine, official says

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Miners trapped in Mexico mine blast
  • NEW: Residents of a nearby village hold a funeral for one killed miner
  • NEW: Lozano says crews are close to reaching the remaining workers
  • He also says there is no hope of finding the miners alive
  • Five specialists from Chile join rescuers

Mexico City (CNN) -- Mexico's labor secretary said search crews were close Thursday to reaching the bodies of eight workers likely killed in a mine explosion, state media reported.

Earlier in the day, Labor Secretary Javier Lozano said there was "no hope of life" for the eight miners who remain trapped inside a mine in Sabinas, Mexico.

Lozano first made the declaration on Twitter and then in a televised interview on CNN affiliate Televisa.

A sixth body was found Thursday, he said. If no one survived, that means there are eight more bodies to be found and recovered from the coal mine.

Residents of a nearby village held a funeral for the sixth victim just hours after he was found, the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

Experts from Chile who helped rescue miners there in October arrive Thursday to help crews.

A blast Tuesday morning at the mine just outside Sabinas left 14 workers trapped inside.

Authorities waited until toxic gases dissipated enough to allow rescuers to begin exploring the mine's tunnels, Notimex said.

A 15-year-old worker had both arms amputated after he was seriously injured in the blast, Mexico's attorney general's office said.

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

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

He described such small, makeshift coal mines as "unsafe places," calling them "irregular, deadly traps, as we are seeing."

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

Federal authorities said they had no record of the company, and that the owners of the land where the mine is located never registered any excavation at the site, said Ricardo Rojo, a spokesman for Mexico's economic ministry.

But a Binsa spokesman rejected government claims the the company was operating in an irregular manner.

"It is one of the companies with the best safety," spokesman Jesus Espinosa said in an interview with Mexico's W Radio, adding that government and union officials had reviewed its operations.

The mine contains a shaft that is 60 meters (197 feet) deep, Sabinas Mayor Jesus Montemayor Garza said.

Federal authorities are investigating what caused the explosion while family members anxiously wait outside the mine and local workers from other mines help with the search.

"They are miners from Sabinas who are risking their lives in order to pull out the bodies of their peers," Montemayor 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.

An organization representing family members of the victims of that accident said Tuesday's blast was a tragic reminder that the federal government must do more to regulate mines. One activist from the organization said there had been more than 40 people killed in local coal mines since the 2006 accident.

"How long will to take to recognize that there is a very serious crisis in coal mining (in the Mexican state of) Coahuila, in which the workers and their families are those who must endure the worst, with dead, widows and orphans?" a statement from the organization said.

CNN's Rey Rodriguez, Rafael Romo and Catherine E. Shoichet and journalists Hanako Taniguchi and Tania L. Montalvo of contributed to this report.