Monterrey – Fourteen men were trapped underground Tuesday after a gas explosion at an artisanal coal mine in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, the mayor of the nearby town of Sabinas said.
"There are 14 miners trapped plus one person injured" in the wake of the 7:00 a.m. blast, Jesus Maria Montemayor Garza told Radio Formula.
Authorities have yet to make contact with the trapped men and rescue efforts remain on hold because the levels of methane gas are still almost triple the range considered safe, according to Montemayor.
Owned by Asociacion de Carboneros BINSA, the Salinas mine consists of a derrick poised over a single vertical shaft with small tunnels radiating outward, the mayor said.
Such artisanal mines, which are common in Coahuila, lack the safety measures required at larger, mechanized facilities, he said, adding that he was told there are only "around two or three inspectors" assigned to the area.
"We have always remarked that they give us too few personnel for the high risk or the high level of risk at our mines," Montemayor said.
The region's mine-rescue teams are run by private firms, such as Grupo Acerero del Norte, and are coordinating their efforts with the Coahuila state government, the mayor of Sabinas said.
He said the 14 miners were trapped about 60 meters (197 feet) from the mine entrance.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon vowed his government will do "everything possible" to rescue the miners and provide "all possible support" to their families.
The labor secretary, Javier Lozano, flew to Coahuila after he learned of the explosion and plans to remain at the mine to monitor developments, his office said.
Coahuila was the scene of the worst mining disaster in Mexico's recent history: the Feb. 19, 2006, explosion at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine, where 65 men died.
The victims' bodies were never recovered and the miners kin, supported by Catholic Bishop Raul Vera, continue to blame the mine owners for negligence.