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Russian Rescue Workers Continue Efforts to Locate Trapped Miners

Emergency teams in southern Russia are continuing their efforts to locate and rescue a group of 13 coal miners trapped underground since Thursday. On Saturday, 33 other miners were taken to the surface from a flooded mine shaft, but the chances that the others can be saved are fading fast.

Throughout the night, rescue workers continued digging a tunnel to the flooded shaft in the Zapadnaya mine in southern Russia, trying to help the 13 miners trapped 800 meters beneath the surface.

Emergency workers said the process was going slowly because using machinery was impossible and rescue teams were having to dig the tunnels by hand.

The 33 miners who were rescued Saturday were taken to a nearby hospital. None reportedly suffered life-threatening injuries.

Meanwhile, efforts to stop the water from an underground lake leaking into the shaft failed, despite 220 trucks dumping thousands of tons of rocks and earth into the main shaft.

According to Russian media reports, the water level in the mine rose by seven meters throughout the night. Rescue workers said that if that rate continues, the mine would be fully flooded by Tuesday.

The coal miners were working 800 meters underground when water from a subterranean lake started leaking to into a shaft above them. Some managed to escape quickly, and 33 others were pulled to the surface two and three at a time in a small service elevator.

The miners who remained trapped were believed stuck in an elevated part of the mine. They have no electricity, no food, very little remaining oxygen and no contact with the rescue teams.

Outside the mine, dozens of relatives were waiting to learned the fate of their loved ones. Many burned candles and participated in a prayer, conducted by an orthodox priest.

Accidents are common in Russia's aging coal industry. The Zapadnaya mine, where this latest accident occurred, was built more than 60 years ago, and there was a similar accident last February, when water flooded a shaft. But no miners were inside at the time.