Rescuers on Saturday were on the cusp of freeing nine miners trapped alive for two days in the tunnel of a mine in southern Peru, despite being unable to bring in the heavy equipment they needed.
“They are alive, but we have refrained from using a backhoe because of the difficulty of bringing it in on a truck,” Ica region civil defense spokesman Erin Gomez said.
The miners are trapped 250m underground in a horizontal tunnel, following the collapse of a shaft at the Cabeza de Negro (Black Head) copper mine.
Efforts to save them intensified on Saturday when rescue workers and firefighters who had been at the scene near the village of Quilque for more than 40 hours were replaced, Gomez said.
A new team from the mining company Milpo dug to within 2m of the trapped miners, prompting hope the rescue would be completed late on Saturday, Civil Defense deputy chief Edgar Ortega told a Lima radio station.
However, he qualified the optimism by saying that the “rescue could conclude on Saturday night or Sunday, but it all depended on no more landslides occurring while removing the debris clogging the mineshaft.”
Rescuers brought serums and medicines, rehydrating beverages and oxygen to the mine, where they set up a small makeshift camp.
The trapped miners have said that some of them are showing symptoms of dehydration and mental distress, regional health department official Alberto Borja told RPP radio station.
Television images showed rescue workers communicating with the rescuers by voice through a hose.
“Everyone is together and unharmed. The biggest concern is that we get them liquids. We have sent them 100 bottles of rehydrating fluids,” Borja said.