Latin America & Caribbean

Anger grows among families of trapped Chile miners

Relatives of trapped miners on 19 August 2010
Image caption News that the probe failed to reach the area where the miners are believed to be hit relatives hard

Anger is growing among the relatives of 33 miners who have been trapped in a mine in Chile for the past 16 days.

The families say the authorities are not doing enough to reach the men, who were cut off when the main access tunnel in the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama desert collapsed.

They are demanding that volunteers with knowledge of the mine be allowed to search for those who are trapped.

But the authorities say that would only put more lives at risk.

"We understand the anguish the families are suffering, but we have to act responsibly and think carefully about what we do in the mine and what steps we take," government official Ena von Baer said.

Thwarted efforts

But spokesman for the Chilean mining federation Agustin Latorre said there had been too many delays in the rescue efforts.

"The government is playing with people's emotions and that's very dangerous," Mr Latorre added.

He said the mining federation had asked the authorities to dig a tunnel, but had not yet received an answer.

Relatives have complained that officials have so far insisted on using probes to reach the miners, rather than digging tunnels through which they could be rescued.

On Thursday, efforts to send a probe into the shelter, where the miners are believed to have sought refuge, failed when the probe missed its target.

Officials blamed the failure on inaccuracies in the maps supplied by the company who owns the mine.

But they said a camera lowered through the drill hole seemed to indicate that portion of the mine was not affected by the cave-in.

Drilling has resumed since, and rescuers hope a new probe will be able to reach the men within the next 24 hours.

No contact has been made with them since the collapse more than two weeks ago. They are believed to be trapped at a depth of 700m (2,300ft).

Earlier attempts to reach the miners were thwarted, first by a new cave-in, and later by a 700,000-tonne rock, which rescuers could not drill through.

Relatives are clinging to the hope that the miners may have reached a shelter containing oxygen, food and water after the tunnel collapsed.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites