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W.Va. mine rescue mission setback for third time

Rescue crews entered the Big Upper Branch mine early Friday morning in another attempt to find four miners who are unaccounted for after an explosion Monday killed 25 men. This was the third rescue mission that was called off because of dangerous conditions.

The rescue team was in the mine long enough to reach the refuge chamber where any survivors could live with a stock of fresh air, food and water. The chamber was found empty and unused. As they proceeded to the second chamber, they were only 500 feet away when signs of a fire forced crews to retreat.

In a news briefing Friday morning federal mine safety official, Kevin Stricklin said it is unknown exactly where the fire is and because of the smoke within the mine, rescuers will not physically be able to get to the refuge chamber. They are now focusing on drilling a larger bore hole and the use of cameras to see inside the chamber for any survivors.

The chambers are large enough to hold 15 and are stocked with supplies to sustain them for 96 hours. Although it appears rescuers are unable to reach he chamber within the 96 hour span, with only four miners unaccounted for, they are still hopeful miners are safe within the rescue area. For now, when the bore holes are drilled, cameras will be used to check for any signs of life until the toxic air is ventilated for rescue crews to enter without using their oxygen supply.

Around 1 a.m. Friday brave rescuers carried four extra oxygen packs as an extra precaution as they made their way by foot and rail car through the rubble, bodies, shattered concrete block walls and twisted railroad tracks.

Seven bodies were taken from the mine Monday. At least 18 remain inside.

Frequent setbacks are common in the aftermath of an explosion this powerful, Gov. Joe Manchin said. The blast has destroyed communication equipment and has affected ventilation in the mine, and with 25 found dead, this the worst mining disaster since 1984.

Manchin and mine officials will address the public during the next news conference at approximately 3 p.m. from the Marsh Fork Elementary School in Montcoal, W.Va.

For Thursday, April 8 story on Upper Big Branch mine, click here


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