Workers close to 13 trapped Russian miners

RESCUE teams brought 33 miners to the surface Saturday from the Zapadnaya mine in southern Russia and are very close to reaching 13 trapped workers.

Angie Tomlinson

The mine in southern Russia was inundated by an underground lake 800 metres below the surface last week and emergency workers stopped the flow of water into the mine on Tuesday. The trapped miners were split into two groups of 33 and 13 with the rescued workers found 36 hours after the inundation occurred.

Working from an adjacent mine, rescuers are digging closer to where the remaining 13 trapped men are believed to have fled after a subterranean lake burst through a shaft and blocked their escape, the Interfax news agency reported.

By Tuesday morning, the tunnelers were 6-10 feet away from the area where the men are believed to have been stranded by the flood of icy water, said Major General Viktor Kapkanchikov of Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry.

The latest news is that drilling has taken longer than planned because of larger distances between shafts than originally thought.

A spokesperson of the operational rescue HQ, Vladimir Katalnikov, expressed fears about the state of the air in the mine and also the state of the tunnel to which the rescue workers are trying to break through.

No work has been done in it for more than 20 years, and it might also be blocked up by rock.