Fresh flooding at Mexican mine hamper rescue efforts for 10 miners

SABINAS, Mexico, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Mexico’s efforts to rescue 10 miners who were trapped in a flooded coal mine 13 days ago have faced another setback as groundwater levels rose, a officials announced Monday.

Miners found themselves confined underground at the Pinabete mine in the border state of Coahuila on August 3 when their excavation work led to the collapse of a tunnel wall and caused flooding. Read more

The push came from the nearby Conchas Norte mine, which closed due to flooding in 1996 and has since accumulated nearly 2 million cubic meters (528 million gallons) of water, said Laura Velazquez, head of Mexico’s Civil Protection Agency.

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Engineers now plan to seal the Pinabete and Conchas Norte mines from each other while continuing to pump water out of Pinabete, Velazquez said.

Last week, Mexican officials succeeded in reducing the water depth in Pinabete, in the municipality of Sabinas, which had initially exceeded about 30 meters (100 feet). But on Monday, water levels returned to their heights at the time of the collapse, in a pit reaching more than 41 meters (135 feet).

On Sunday, a rescue team was preparing to descend into one of the mineshafts when the water receded, Velazquez noted.

“This sudden entry forced us to stop the whole entry plan,” Velazquez said at a regular government press conference. A video camera lowered into the well revealed debris from pipes and cables floating in the “extremely murky water”, she added.

An attempt to enter the mine last week when water levels were lower was also thwarted by debris and darkness. Read more

Maria Guadalupe Cabriales, sister of trapped miner Margarito Cabriales, said in an interview outside the mine that delays in the rescue effort had worn down her optimism.

“They’re going to take longer to get my brother out… What hope do we have left?”

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Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City and Alberto Fajardo in Sabinas, Coahuila; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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