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Rescuers Try to Reach Coal Miners in Utah

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: Throughout the night, rescuers used heavy equipment and huge drills to try and reach the six men trapped inside the mine. Robert E. Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp, which is part owner of the Crandall Canyon mine, said rescue crews were drilling into the mine vertically from the mountaintop and horizontally from the side.

MONTAGNE: And the idea is to get a hole in to where they are. They can be in a chamber in there that's a thousand feet long or they could be dead.

KAHN: Murray tried to be hopeful. He said the mine is stocked with water and plenty of air leaks into the mine naturally. However, by evening falling debris was stalling rescuers' attempts to reach the miners. Murray said he was giving the families of the six men constant updates on the rescue efforts.

MONTAGNE: We're doing all we can. We never do enough. You never know if you've done all you should. But we're doing the best we can and we're keeping them informed - well informed.

KAHN: Veronica Ordiner(ph) was chain-smoking outside the center waiting for a call from her husband Cody. He was on one of the first rescue teams sent after the mine collapsed early yesterday morning. The call came just as the sun dropped behind the mountain outside Huntington. Ordiner squealed as she recognized her husband's ring tone. She had only enough time to say I love you before the connection was lost.

MONTAGNE: And I just barely got to talk to him, he's on mine rescue. And I'm on my way home to hug my baby. He's a hero and I love him.

KAHN: Ordiner's mother-in-law, Cathy Eastman(ph), broke into tears at the news that her son was okay.

MONTAGNE: Oh, man. Relief.

KAHN: That must have been a horrible week.

MONTAGNE: Yeah.

KAHN: You know what these families are going through then.

MONTAGNE: Definitely. Yeah, I really pray for them. I will definitely pray for them.

KAHN: While more then 100 of those citations were considered significant, Bruce Dial, a former inspector with the agency, says the company's record was not unusual.

MONTAGNE: They'd had citations, but nothing that would stick out that would show that they had a real problem with roof control in that area, at that mine.

KAHN: University of Utah seismologist Walter Arabasz says while the data is still being analyzed, it looks like the cave-in caused the shock waves.

MONTAGNE: Our best judgment is that a collapse-type event produced the magnitude 3.9 earthquake that we recorded and reported.

KAHN: Crews worked through the night bulldozing a road outside the mine to bring in a drilling rig. They want to punch holes large enough to send air down to where the men are trapped. Utah governor Jon Huntsman says every effort is being exhausted to reach the miners.

MONTAGNE: I just want all Utahans to know that our thoughts and prayers, of course, are with the six individuals and their families. Everything that can be done is being done - and of course that will continue. And our thoughts and prayers obviously will be ongoing until this is wrapped up.

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Huntington, Utah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.