Teams of rescuers frantically cleared debris from underground tunnels yesterday, trying to reach six coal miners trapped by a cave-in beneath more than 457m of solid rock.
In early morning darkness, workers in hard hats came and went along a road leading to the mine in a forested canyon among mountains.
"Right now I can't say if it's looking any better," said one weary miner, Leland Lobato, as he ended an eight-hour shift. "They're doing what they can to keep everybody as fresh as possible so nobody gets tired."
The six were believed to have been in a chamber 5.5km inside the Crandall Canyon mine. Rescuers were able to reach a point about 518m from that point before being blocked by debris.
Crews hope drill rigs can punch holes in the mine to improve ventilation and help them determine if the miners survived the early Monday collapse, said Robert Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp of Cleveland, a part owner of the mine.
If they are alive, the miners would have plenty of air because oxygen naturally leaks into the mine, Murray said. The mine also is stocked with drinking water.
If rescuers can open an old mine shaft, they think they can get within 30.5m of where the men were believed to be, he said.
The collapse was reported about 4am on Monday, and relatives of the miners spent the rest of the day waiting at a senior center for news.
Many of the family members do not speak English, so Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon hugged them, put her hands over her heart and then clasped them together to let them know she was praying for them, she said.
"Past experience tells us these things don't go very well," Gordon said.
The mine is built into a mountain in the rugged Manti-La Sal National Forest, 225km south of Salt Lake City.