Major setback in Utah mine rescue effort

Of course our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to these trapped miners and their families…

From the AP:

HUNTINGTON, Utah – Dangerous conditions that forced rescuers to halt attempts to reach six trapped miners will prevent crews from reaching the men for at least a week, a mining executive said.Seismic activity “wiped out” all progress rescuers had made in clearing rubble that has trapped the miners since Monday, said Bob Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp., owner of the Crandall Canyon mine. “We are back to square one underground,” he said late Tuesday, adding that the rescue operation would resume no earlier than Wednesday afternoon.

Of course, there is already finger pointing going on, why can’t we focus on the rescue effort?

A spokesman for University of Utah seismologists said Wednesday that all evidence indicates it was the mine collapse, not an earthquake, that registered on a seismograph early Monday, and that scientists suspect further shaking at the site is caused by settling.[snip]Murray insisted the crisis was caused by a natural disaster.

“This was caused by an earthquake, not something that Murray Energy … did or our employees did or our management did,” he said. “It was a natural disaster. An earthquake. And I’m going to prove it to you.”

However, seismologists said the mine collapse appeared to be the source, not the result, of the seismic event recorded by seismographs.

“Our seismologists at the University of Utah are careful not to rule out any possibility, but they tell me all of the available evidence indicates that the mine collapse itself was the earthquake,” Lee Siegel, a University of Utah science news specialist, said Wednesday.

Siegel said seismologists don’t know what is actually being felt on the ground at the mine during the rescue attempts but “are presuming it’s from settling.” Eleven aftershocks were recorded in 1 1/2 days after the collapse, Siegel said. The largest was magnitude 2.2.

The U.S. Geological Survey also says it appeared the initial tremor was the mine collapse rather than a quake. Mine collapses have a seismic signature distinct from earthquakes because they tend to occur at shallower depths and at different frequencies.

See what I mean, it is already a pissing contest; focus people!

A miner who has spent four years at the mine said Wednesday it made sense to suspend the underground rescue effort.”If it’s bouncing like they say it is, you don’t need more people hurt,” said Robby Robertson, who said one of the missing men is his distant cousin. He declined to identify the man.

“I think they’ll be OK, if we can get to them in time,” Robertson said.

Though rescue crews withdrew from inside the mine, drilling was being conducted from the surface. Two holes were being bored vertically in an attempt to get air and food to the miners and to communicate with them, said Richard Stickler, head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

However, there was mixed progress on the drilling early Wednesday, Stickler said.

The holes are small — one is 2 1/2 inches in diameter and the other less than 9 inches — and will need to reach about 1,500 feet below the surface. The smaller hole was 350 feet deep by early Wednesday, but there were problems aligning the drill for the other hole, Stickler said.

“If you don’t have it aligned properly, you’re going to miss your target,” Stickler said.

Murray said earlier the bore holes they should bring information about the status of the miners in the next few days. If the miners are alive, he said, they could survive on available air “for perhaps weeks.”

The government’s chief mine inspector in the West was more cautious.

“We’re hoping there’s air down there. We have no way of knowing that,” said MSHA’s Al Davis.

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