There will be no live rescue of the 10 miners trapped in Coahuila
(CNN Spanish) — Almost a month has passed since 10 miners were trapped in a mine in northern Mexico and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador left them for dead: “They propose a rescue by making some cuts,” he said and changed the narrative for the first time to affirm that “in this way we can rescue the bodies of these miners”. The families had rejected this plan that will take 6 to 11 months but have finally accepted it, according to the president.
“There was consultation with specialists from Germany, from the United States and they propose a rescue by making some cuts and that way we can rescue the bodies of these miners,” López Obrador said this week from Nuevo León. The president also referred to the meetings that the government held with the families of the miners who initially refused to accept the strategy to rescue them: “They became very sad. It is a very difficult situation. They were very upset, they did not want anything , and they have already accepted. There is also already a consensus, the 10 families agree that this work be carried out. And they did not accept because of the time, because the rescue will take longer, and they would like it to be as quick as possible. soon as posible”.
These 10 miners were trapped on August 3 when the three coal pits that make up the El Pinabete mine —located in Sabinas, a municipality in the Carboniferous Region of the state of Coahuila some 120 kilometers from the border with the United States— They collapsed due to a flood, explained General Agustín Radilla, Undersecretary of National Defense.
Since then, the families have been in the surroundings of the mine pending the rescue work, an anguished wait that seemed endless.
Now, with the end of the hopes of getting them out alive, the Government has reached an agreement to compensate the relatives. “We are going to take responsibility to pay compensation,” said AMLO, who said that it is not only about making reparation for the tragedy, but also for the situation of poverty.
What went wrong in the efforts to rescue the 10 miners and what were the attempts that were made for almost a month?
The initial (unsuccessful) attempts
Fifteen miners were working in shaft 1 of the coal mine at a depth of 60 meters when they encountered an underground water flow that caused the interior walls to soften, causing the tunnel to collapse and leaving 10 of them trapped (five managed to be rescued). The Civil Protection authorities arrived in the area to start the search and rescue work, as well as the National Guard.
The first two weeks of the rescue operation focused on trying to extract as much water as possible, using 19 pumping equipment, so that the brigades could enter to help the miners. In addition, the authorities said that they placed a curtain to prevent the water that filtered from the Sabinas River from continuing to enter.
After about five days of draining the water, Civil Protection said there were 10.4 meters of water left to pump from well number one; 11.3 meters in hole number two; 27.3 meters in the relief well, and 16.4 meters in well number three. However, lower water levels were needed to allow rescuers to safely enter and rescue the miners.
“Today we will be focused on lowering these water levels with the idea that we can submerge the drone again and obviously that the rescuers can enter to clean, remove all obstacles and descend as soon as possible to rescue the miners,” said the August 9 Laura Velázquez, National Coordinator of Civil Protection of Mexico.
The next day, the eighth day, Velázquez reported that the water levels seemed optimal and they would make a first attempt to enter the mine to assess how the rescue would be, but it turned out to be more complex than they thought. Hours later, a rescuer and a diver descended, but they were unable to advance because they found the tracks obstructed by debris (wood, hoses, pilings) and visibility was difficult despite the fact that they had lights.
After 10 days of anxious waiting, the relatives of the miners spoke to the press for the first time and expressed their annoyance at the delays in the rescue and asked the authorities to request the help of foreign experts to help speed up the work.
“They tell us to wait, that there is a long way to go, that there is not much left, and they do not know what accounts they can give. What we want is for them to help us, whether it is abroad or whatever it is to try to get our relatives out,” Gabriel said then. Rodríguez, brother of Margarito Rodríguez, one of the trapped miners.
Between August 13 and 15, water levels in pits two, three and four of the mine rose again following a sudden influx from a broken tunnel at the nearby Conchas Norte mine, closed nearly 30 years ago due to flooding. The rescuers did not go back down to search beyond the tunnels.
According to Velásquez, the water levels in the mine were 38.49 meters in well number two, 41.01 meters in well number three and 38.15 meters in well number four.
By then, Civil Protection reported that a group of specialists from the Mexican Geological Service of the Ministry of Economy and the Mimosa company were designing a strategy to overcome the abundance of water that was filtering.
13 days later, Mexico asked for international help
It has been 13 days since the accident that left 10 workers trapped in the coal mine for the authorities to seek the help of a company from Germany and another from the United States to collaborate in the rescue. The relatives had insisted on this for days, asking either for foreign help or for national experts who had a deep knowledge of the subject and would help them. But it was too late, in his opinion.
“I think they could have done more from the beginning, they are only improvising. I was participating in the rescue, I was contributing to the installation of bombs, but we believe that they are only improvising and do not give concrete results. We had already proposed that foreign aid be requested or experts who were prepared for these situations but we were denied that proposal,” Jorge Luis Mireles Romo, the son of one of the trapped miners, said in an interview with CNN.
Goodbye to the rescue: the Government launches a plan to recover the bodies of the miners
After almost a month, the relatives had no choice but to accept the plan proposed by the Mexican authorities to recover the bodies of the 10 miners who were trapped in the El Pinabete coal mine.
The government of President López Obrador offered them one last option: open an open pit to access the place where it is thought that the workers could be trapped since last August 3 and recover the bodies.
The inconvenience for the families was time, since to carry out this strategy the work could take from 6 to 11 months, depending on what some family members told the media about the proposal offered by the government.
The Government announced that as part of the work it intends to extract water from an adjoining mine and assured that they will continue with the procedures requested by a group of technicians in order to have better results.
Days before, López Obrador had assured that they would not give up and that the 2006 tragedy in Pasta de Conchos, when 65 miners died trapped after an explosion and could not be rescued, would not be repeated.
“The instruction is that we do not give up, the Pasta de Conchos thing is not going to happen, it was decreed that there was no longer any possibility of recovering the miners. Not us, we are going to be there,” said the president.
Now, López Obrador asked the director of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), Manuel Bartlett, to deal with both cases: “I want to ask Mr. Bartlett to apply himself and that in addition to the Pasta de Conchos mine, we must rescue to these miners.
The authorities considered that once the bodies of the trapped miners were recovered, a monument could be installed.
With information from Gustavo Valdés, Marlon Sorto, Rey Rodríguez, Karol Suárez, Daniela González-Román, Hira Humayun, Paulina Gómez, Natalia Cano, Valentina González and Mario González