A new collapse at the Coahuila mine wipes out 13 days of rescue efforts

A new collapse at the Coahuila mine wipes out 13 days of rescue efforts

Back to the starting point. The rescue of 10 miners trapped in a coal mine in Sabinas, Coahuila since August 3 has suffered a setback that is hard to stomach in the early hours of Monday morning. The water flooding the adits, whose drainage has become the main objective over the past 13 days – a necessary condition for rescue workers to descend into the mine – has returned to its original level after another “sudden entry”. Water,” said Laura Velázquez, the person in charge of civil protection. On Friday, the water level in one of the wells was 72 centimeters, in another 2.6 meters and in the third 4.2 meters. “The latest cut we have is 38.49 meters in hole two; 41.04 in hole three and 38.14 in hole four,” Velázquez said.

The President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, indicated in his press conference this Monday that the mine had “collapsed even more”. “We were fine, but a water hole from the neighboring disused mine, which collects most of the water, widened. And when we drained the water from the coal mine where the 10 miners are trapped, the water levels increased again.” The workers worked at three coal mines that opened earlier this year, an operation known as El Pinabete. Only a few meters away is Las Conchas, an old mine which, according to Civil Protection, was abandoned in 1996. The proximity of Las Conchas to the Sabinas River meant that in years of disuse it was flooded with water that on August 3 also poured into the neighboring ones Galleries of Pinabete invaded.

“Water has been accumulated for 28 years,” Velázquez said, “an approximate calculation of the retained volume is 1.9 million cubic meters. (…) At the start of the search, the altitude [del agua] Averages in the Pinabete mine shafts were measured at 41.47 metres. After 11 working days, the average was 3.15 meters. But this was affected yesterday, at 5:45am there was a sudden inrush of water from the Conchas Nortes mine due to the possible release of accumulated water from a ravine. At four o’clock in the morning we had 1.30 centimeters of water level, we prepared to enter through well two, but this sudden entry spoiled the whole plan”.

Relatives of the miners trapped during a procession in Sabinas.Relatives of the miners trapped during a procession in Sabinas ANTONIO OJEDA

The victims’ families’ worst fears are consumed. Floating in the air of the makeshift camp where they wait is the ghost of Pasta de Conchos, a 2006 explosion at a mine in the area that killed 65 miners. 63 of their bodies were never recovered and remain under the rubble of the former galleries. His name is invoked again and again with terror among the relatives: it is the extreme, which they do not want to reach, that each day draws closer without news from the workers. On Friday, civil defense planned to go down to the mine and begin rescue as they claimed to have drained 97% of the water from the tunnels. But over the weekend the rescue faltered and this renewed setback is hard to bear.

Today is the thirteenth day that the 10 men remain incommunicado in the coal mine 60 meters underground. They have no drinking water, food or electricity. Their loved ones don’t know if they’re alive or dead, and what few hopes remain are gradually being consumed. More and more relatives accept the improbability of saving a life and only ask that the bodies of their loved ones be returned to them for burial. Don’t get repeat pasta de conchos. “I have given instructions to reinforce the entire rescue plan. They pump around 290 liters per second. We will increase the pumping and the engineers will make a proposal to build some kind of barrier from one mine to another and stop the water. We will intensify the work. I send a hug to the miners’ families. We will not stop working to save them,” said López Obrador.

For his part, Velázquez has indicated that water drainage into the collapsed wells is maintained. “Eight pumps were installed in nine wells, a total of 14 pumps are installed, delivering a flow rate of 371 liters per second. The total amount of water released until yesterday is almost 250,000 cubic meters. Conditions in the wells are maintained, yesterday an underwater drone inspected well number two, attempted to penetrate two adits but were obstructed by material from the mine.”

The civil protection officer has indicated that he will bring about a change in the rescue strategy, which consists in “proceeding with the permanent pumping of the Pinabete mine wells; identify areas of voids due to underground mining; to carry out the drilling of 20 6-inch wells to a depth of 60 meters in the adits of the Conchas Norte mine and to inject cement through the perforations in the adits of the coal plate to seal it”.

On Saturday, the families of the trapped miners appeared together in front of the press for the first time to ask for help “either from Mexico or from abroad”. They accused the authorities of lack of transparency and information. Feeling betrayed, they asked for Velázquez’s relief on the orders of the rescue operation. “Introduce, [las familias] They’ve already been used up, ten days and nothing,” said Javier Rodríguez Palomares, brother of Margarito Rodríguez, one of the trapped workers. Now 13 days have passed and everything is back to how it was at the beginning.

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