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Survival Doubtful for Trapped Ecuadorean Miners

A rescue worker looks on outside the Minesadco mine in Portovelo, southern Ecuador. A tunnel collapsed in the gold mine, operated by the Ecuadorean company Minesadco, trapping four miners 490 feet, some 150 meters, underground, 16 Oct 2010

Rescue efforts continue as officials in Ecuador say survival looks doubtful for two men trapped in a gold mine since Friday.

Emergency teams in the mine about 400 kilometers southwest of the capital, Quito, are continuing to dig toward where they believe the two men are trapped. But officials say the temperature, humidity and oxygen levels in the mine are unacceptable for survival.

Rescue teams worked through the night to try to remove a six-meter-thick barrier of rock and wood. Diggers estimated late Tuesday it could take at least 10 hours to break through the barrier.

The two missing miners were with two other workers in the mine Friday when a cave-in occurred, trapping the men about 150 meters below the surface.

The bodies of two miners were recovered Saturday. There has been no contact with the two remaining workers.

An Ecuadorean government mining official, Jorge Espinosa, said he believes water levels in the mine contributed to the collapse. Three workers were injured during rescue efforts Monday when muddy ground began to give way in a section of the mine.

Relatives of the trapped miners have been gathering at the site, waiting for news on the rescue effort.

The accident follows international attention on mining after last week's dramatic rescue of all 33 miners in Chile who had been trapped underground for more than two months.