Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico rescuers comb mine blast site as hopes fade

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Media captionRelatives wait at the top of the mine to hear news of their loved ones

Rescuers searching a coal mine rocked by a gas explosion in northern Mexico have so far recovered five bodies.

Efforts are continuing to locate nine more men trapped underground but hopes of finding survivors are fading.

Officials said the blast was so strong that a teenage boy working at the mine's surface had lost an arm.

The pit is located near the town of San Juan de Sabinas, the scene of one of Mexico's worst mining disasters where 65 men died in 2006.

After Tuesday's blast, rescue efforts were initially hampered by high levels of methane gas in the mine shaft.

As tearful family members gathered near the entrance of the mine, the authorities tried to extract the underground gas using machines.

Giving updates via Twitter, Labour Secretary Javier Lozano confirmed that five bodies had so far been recovered.

"The truth is that it does not allow us to hold out much hope," he said.

Mr Lozano said the teenager who lost his arm had apparently been employed at the site illegally, the Associated Press reported.

'Unsafe conditions'

The small mine, in Coahuila state close to the border with the US, had been operating for less than a month.

It was one of the many small mining operations which are vital to the local economy in poorer regions.

Officials are investigating who actually operated the mine.

In a statement, the Mexican mine workers' union criticised the "totally unsafe conditions" in the country's mines.

Relatives of some of the miners killed in the 2006 disaster have urged the government to tighten regulations.

The blast at the Pasta de Conchos mine more than four years ago collapsed thousands of tonnes of rock.

To date, only two bodies have been recovered.

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