Rescuers have found one body in a West Virginia coal mine where 13 miners were trapped after an explosion early Monday.
Ben Hatfield is from International Coal Group, the company that owns the mine. He said tests have found that levels of the deadly gas carbon monoxide far exceeded the maximum safety level set by federal regulatory limits, a development that has hampered rescue efforts. Mr. Hatfield said rescuers successfully drilled a tunnel into the mine and lowered a camera into a section where they expected the miners to be, but found no signs of them.
"There is hope they could be in another location or barricaded somewhere, protected from that level of carbon monoxide," he said. "But, certainly, if they were in this particular location, that's not an environment that would sustain life."
Despite the less than encouraging news, West Virginia governor Joe Manchin told the ABC television program Good Morning, America he is not yet ready to give up.
"We're still hoping for a miracle, as you know," he said.
On Tuesday, Governor Manchin spoke with President Bush, who expressed his concern from Washington.
"I told him that Americans all across our country are praying for the miners who are trapped in the mine there in West Virginia," said Mr. Bush. "I told him that I appreciated the great outpouring of compassion from the West Virginia citizens toward those worried family members. I also assured him that the federal government will help the folks in West Virginia any way we can to bring those miners out of that mine hopefully in good condition."
The Bureau of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration has a mobile command center and a rescue robot on the scene. The administration says mine disasters, where at least five people are killed, were more common in the United States in the early part of the 20th century, but have declined dramatically after decades of research. The most recent U.S. mine disaster claimed 13 lives in Alabama in December 2001.
The cause of Monday's blast is not yet known, but coal mine explosions are typically caused by build-ups of naturally occurring methane gas, which is odorless and highly flammable. Methane buildup is more of a problem in the winter, because barometric pressure causes more of the gas to be released.