US crews drill hole to within few hundred feet of miners

Crews drilling toward six trapped coal miners in Utah hoped to reach the area where they were believed to be by tonight and finally discover whether the men were alive, one of the mine’s co-owners said.

Authorities thought the men were 1,500 feet underground, but rescuers realised partway through the day that because of rough, uneven terrain, they would need to drill to nearly 1,900 feet.

“It’s not an operational problem. It’s a time setback,” said Allyn Davis, who oversees Western operations for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The 2 1/2-inch hole to bring a microphone and camera into the cavity must be drilled 1,869 feet, he said. The rig had reached 1,530 feet, said Bob Murray, chairman of mine co-owner Murray Energy Corp.

A larger hole, just under 9 inches to bring food and water, must be drilled 1,886 feet, Davis said. That drill had advanced 350 feet to 400 feet.

“We will put cameras down. We will provide communication. We will provide food. We could keep them alive indefinitely,” Murray said.

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