Authorities flag "decisive" day for rescuing 10 miners who have been trapped in a coal mine in Coahuila state for more than three days.

Miners were trapped when their excavation work caused a tunnel wall to collapse, triggering flooding in three wells.
Miners were trapped when their excavation work caused a tunnel wall to collapse, triggering flooding in three wells. (Reuters)

Large pumps have sucked water from a flooded coal mine in Mexico as authorities weighed whether to send divers to try to save 10 miners who have been trapped underground for more than three days.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Saturday would be "decisive" in determining whether divers could safely enter the mine.

But by afternoon, Coahuila Governor Miguel Riquelme said water levels were still too high.

"Time is against us," he told families at the site, Mexican media reported.

The miners became trapped at a mine in the northern border state of Coahuila on Wednesday afternoon when their excavation work caused a tunnel wall to collapse, triggering flooding in three wells.

Families hold vigil

Relatives keeping vigil outside said they were pinning their hopes on the possibility the miners had found a pocket of air.

"We're tired, we're desperate, but with a little bit (of) hope," said Cecilia Cruz, adding that she had heard about mining accidents in her native Coahuila for decades before the incident that trapped her nephew, 42-year-old Sergio Cruz.

The possibility of mud-filled tunnels and underground collapses could make it impossible for rescue teams to search for the miners, even if enough water is extracted, she noted.

"Do they want to risk more lives? It would be an even bigger tragedy," she said.

Six divers from Mexican Special Forces were sent to aid the effort at the mine, where three wells, each 200 feet deep, were initially more than half-flooded.

Five miners managed to escape. One, Fernando Pompa, recounted in an interview with a Coahuila radio station how he was hauled above ground in a cart used to transport coal after the accident unleashed a huge gush of water.

"The hope is that there's a little bubble of air," he said.

The mine, in the municipality of Sabinas, opened in January and had no "record of complaints for any type of abnormality," according to the Labor Ministry.

Sergio Martinez, whose brother Jorge Luis Martinez, 34, is trapped, said workers above ground told him they heard a thundering noise accompanied by an jet of air when the accident happened. They raced to the mine and threw down a rope, pulling up workers by hand, but didn't reach Jorge Luis.

"We hope there's a miracle so he gets out alive," Martinez said.

READ MORE: Families fret as Mexico battles to rescue trapped miners

Desperate families have spent the third night waiting for news as rescuers work to save the trapped miners.
Desperate families have spent the third night waiting for news as rescuers work to save the trapped miners. (Reuters)

Hazardous mining region

Experts detected a leak coming from nearby mines and aim to find its exact location so they can stop water flowing into the area where the workers are trapped, Coahuila's labor secretary, Nazira Zogbi, said.

A French company has provided equipment to assist in the task, she said, without naming the firm.

The arrival of more powerful pumping equipment was also a reason for optimism, Zogbi added.

"Major progress has been made. It looks like we'll have better news," she said.

Water was seen flowing from the mine through drainage channels, lifting the hopes of relatives who spent a third night waiting anxiously for news.

"The last two days we didn't see any progress with the water, but now we see that a lot of water has come out," Elva Hernandez, mother-in-law of one of the trapped workers, told the AFP news agency.

"We're still hoping that they're in a higher part (of the mine), although there's too much water... but we trust in God," the 71-year-old added.

Coahuila, Mexico's main coal-producing region, has seen a series of fatal mining accidents over the years.

Last year, seven miners died when they were trapped in the region.

The worst accident was an explosion that claimed 65 lives at the Pasta de Conchos mine in 2006.

Only two bodies were retrieved after that tragedy.

READ MORE: Mexico races against time to rescue workers from flooded coal mine

Source: AFP