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Hope runs out for miners as rescuers' signal is unanswered.

A video camera lowered into a Utah mine where six workers have been missing for more than five days shows "survivable space", but attempts to signal the miners were met by silence yesterday. The void found by a camera lowered into a new hole showed an intact ceiling above 2ft of rubble mixed with water, said Richard Stickler, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. "We do have a five and a half-foot void. We have not lost the space where the miners could be located," he said.

Rescuers quickly shut down the drill rig and their compressors - anything that could drown out signs of life from down below - and rapped again and again on the drill steel in an attempt to contact the miners. Trapped miners, if they can hear the signal, are trained to respond in kind with tools or rocks.

These signals, however, were met with silence.

"It was heartbreaking," said mine geologist Mike Glasson, who was on the mountain at the time.

The news further disheartened the miners' relatives, who have eagerly awaited each new development only to have their faith dashed when no word comes of the fate of their loved ones.

"With so much time passing we are losing hope," said Tomas Hernandez, uncle of miner Luis Hernandez, 23, although he said his nephew's wife was clinging to hers. "As a wife, she has to have hope," he said.

The camera encountered trouble because 10 gallons of groundwater a minute were flowing down the hole into the vast space below, Stickler said. The water, not enough to affect any survivors below, blurred one of the camera's lenses. Nonetheless, he said, "We found survivable space." The men were more than three miles inside the remote mine near Huntongdon at the time of the thunderous collapse last Monday. Efforts to reach them through the horizontal main tunnels have been slowed by fallen rock and by ground movements that require extensive installation of roof and wall supports to keep rescuers safe. Bob Murray, head of Murray Energy, co-owner of the mine, said workers clearing away mounds of rubble had progressed 650 feet into a 2,000ft tunnel that could lead to the men.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 13, 2007
Words:367
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