MAC: Mines and Communities

Families Of Miners Keep Vigil To Recover Loved Ones' Remains

Published by MAC on 2006-02-28
Source: AP ()

Families of miners keep vigil to recover loved ones' remains

by AP, San Juan De Sabinas, Mexico

28th February 2006

With no hope of finding 65 missing miners alive, a few dozen relatives are keeping a solemn vigil outside a collapsed coal mine in northern Mexico, hoping efforts to recover remains of their kin will begin soon.

Maria Cantu said on Sunday she's come to terms with the fact that her 32-year-old son, Raul Villasana, will never emerge from the mine alive, but insisted his remains must be brought out.

"They have the obligation to get them out of there so they can have Christian burials," she said. "The mine is no kind of tomb for them."

A gas explosion on Feb. 19 raised the temperature inside the Pasta de Conchos mine to 6000C and released toxic methane and carbon monoxide that gobbled up nearly all of the oxygen.

On Saturday mining company officials acknowledged there was no way the trapped coal miners could have survived, ending a week of anguish for relatives still holding out hope for their rescue from the mine, about 135km southwest of the US border at Eagle Pass, Texas.

Scientists and executives from the company that owns the mine, Grupo Mexico SA de CV, said they had to wait until at least yesterday before it will be safe enough to resume recovery efforts. Mining and government scientists said they didn't know how long it would take to search all of the mine.

Aranely Saucedo and about 15 other relatives of those buried within the mine vowed to send family members to camp outside its entrance in shifts for weeks. They said they are afraid that if they don't keep a close watch, company officials will simply declare their loved ones lost for good.

"I'm going to be here until they pull him out," said Saucedo, 24, whose 27-year-old husband, Jesus Alberto de Leon, left behind three children, ages 1, 5 and 8. "We'll see if tomorrow they go back in. We are going to wait here, because, if not, they will close the mine."

Some 600 relatives lived in a tent city outside the mine, braving bitterly cold nights until Friday, when officials suspended a six-day-old search because the air inside the mine was too toxic to breath.

The temporary stoppage prompted many relatives to head home. Still more left after Grupo Mexico subsidiary Industrial Minera Mexico said on Saturday that there was no way any of the miners were still alive.

Authorities at every level of government have promised a full investigation of what went on in the minutes before the explosion.

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