Miners trapped in Peru
Ica - Rescuers on Saturday were on the cusp of freeing nine miners trapped alive for two days in the tunnel of a southern Peru mine, 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," Erin Gomez, spokesperson for the Ica region's Civil Defense, told AFP.
The miners are trapped 250 meters underground in a horizontal tunnel, following the collapse of a shaft in 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 two metres of the trapped miners, prompting hope the rescue would be completed later on Saturday, Edgar Ortega, Civil Defence deputy chief, told a Lima radio station.
However, he qualified the optimism when he told AFP that the "rescue could conclude on Saturday night or Sunday, but it all depends 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 report that some of them are showing symptoms of dehydration and mental distress, Alberto Borja, a regional Health Department official, told the RPP radio station.
Television images show rescue workers communicating with them by voice through a hose.
Borja said that "everyone is together and unharmed. The biggest concern is that we get them liquids. We have sent them 100 bottles of rehydrating fluids."