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Three rescuers killed as Utah mine caves in

Three of the rescuers attempting to find six workers trapped in a Utah mine since last week have been killed following a cave-in, officials said on Thursday.

world Updated: Aug 17, 2007 15:20 IST

Three of the rescuers attempting to find six workers trapped in a Utah mine since last week have been killed following a cave-in, officials said on Thursday.

Additionally, six rescuers were injured, said Tammy Kikuchi, a spokeswoman with Utah's Department of Natural Resources.

She confirmed the third death, but it was not known at which hospital that rescuer died.

The others died at Castleview Hospital in Price, Utah -- about 20 miles (32 km) from the mine site at Crandall Canyon in Huntington -- and at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah.

The cave-in, which occurred about 6:35 p.m. MDT (0035 GMT), was referred to as a "mountain bump" -- an eruption of rock and coal under increased pressure from overhead rock as drilling removes surrounding rock and material shifts in an area of the mine.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said all rescue workers were evacuated from the mine and were accounted for, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported on its Web site.

The six trapped miners who were the subject of the search have not been heard from since the central Utah mine caved in on August 6.

Utah Govoernor Jon Huntsman at a news conference in Price in the early hours on Friday said he was pushing to cease below-ground efforts to find the trapped miners unless federal mine safety officials could guarantee the safety of the workers.

Above-ground drilling efforts to locate the miners will be the best source of information, Huntsman said, and work should proceed "with a focus like never before on workplace and worker safety."

"Whatever it is, we as a state don't want any more injuries. We've had enough," he said.

Crandall Canyon Mine co-owner Robert Murray said earlier on Thursday the cavity found by a third bore hole had enough oxygen to sustain life indefinitely and that his crews would keep up efforts to contact the missing men.

Rescue crews were preparing to drill a fourth hole into the mine on Thursday. Work on a tunnel that could eventually get them out was proceeding slowly because of seismic activity.

It is not yet clear what caused the mine to collapse earlier this month. Murray has said it was triggered by an earthquake despite disagreement from geologists.