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Utah mine executive says rescue operations within about 1,000 feet of 6 trapped in mine

    HUNTINGTON, Utah — Crews hoping to get food and air to six coal miners drilled to within about 1,000 feet of the trapped men Wednesday, and hoped to reach them in two days, one of the mine’s owners said.
    It still wasn’t known whether the miners were alive more than two days after the initial cave-in, said Bob Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp., co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine.
    But the progress was substantially better than the night before, when crews had to halt drilling because of unstable ground.
    Teams also were drilling a second larger hole that could be used to get food to the miners, 1,500 feet below the surface. And efforts to clear tunnels leading to the chamber where the men were believed trapped were to resume in the afternoon, Murray said.
    He said it would take a week to get to the miners by clearing the tunnels.
    Murray spoke to reporters after meeting with the miners’ families at a school in Huntington, 10 miles away. At one point, he left the building, paced outside and returned.
    Maria Buenrostro, the sister of trapped miner Manuel Sanchez, 41, said Murray got angry with relatives’ questions and walked out. She also said there was no interpreter for three Spanish-speaking families.
    ‘‘We want the truth, that’s all we want,’’ said Buenrostro, 40, of Nebraska. ‘‘If there’s nothing that they can do about it, you know, just tell us so we know what to expect when they bring them out.’’
    Murray said the families had thanked him.
    ‘‘You can’t make everybody happy,’’ he said. ‘‘In a trauma like this, as the days wear on, tensions become more and more. I have been truthful with them.’’
    Murray cautioned that the drilling work was tricky because of steep slopes and other factors.
    If the drilling goes off target, ‘‘we’ve got to start drilling again,’’ Murray said.
    If the miners are alive, Murray said they could survive on available air ‘‘for perhaps weeks.’’
    The government’s chief safety official in the West was more cautious.
    ‘‘We’re hoping there’s air down there. We have no way of knowing that,’’ said Al Davis of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
    Four miners escaped Monday, but they were not in the same area as their trapped brethren, Murray said.
    Murray said he invited the son of one trapped miner and the brother of another with him on a trip inside the mine to show them the progress of the rescue efforts.
    He also renewed his attacks on media coverage of the disaster and continued to insist the collapse was caused by an earthquake, contradicting seismologists who said the cave-in itself was what registered a 3.9 magnitude.
    ‘‘From our mining experience, we know this was an earthquake,’’ Murray said.
    ‘‘It seems to me the media’s more concerned about trying to place blame than they are about the families and the actual rescue effort underground,’’ he added.

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