SAN JUAN DE SABINAS, Mexico -- Rescuers scraping at walls of debris with no sign of 65 trapped coal miners were close last night to reaching the spot where two miners are believed to be located, a federal official said.
A lack of news a day earlier added to the desperation of hundreds of weary relatives, who have camped outside the mine in bitter cold since Sunday's predawn explosion. Family members threatened to rush past soldiers guarding the pit Tuesday night.
Federal Labor Secretary Francisco Salazar told the Televisa network that rescue workers struggling for more than 24 hours to break down a wall of debris had almost cleared a path that would allow them to proceed through the mine's tunnels. They believe that two miners were about 50 yards beyond the wall.
''These two people will give us an indication of what it is that could have happened," Salazar said.
Officials late Tuesday still did not rule out the possibility, however slim, of finding survivors in the Pasta de Conchos mine, about 85 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas.
The workers were trapped by a gas explosion that sent tons of rock, wood, metal, and earth tumbling into tunnels.
The 65 men were each carrying tanks with only six hours of oxygen, though the workers may have been receiving air through ventilation shafts and oxygen tanks that were scattered throughout the mine, officials have said.
Coahuila state Civil Protection Director Arturo Vilchis said officials ''can't speculate on the condition of the miners."
Because of fears that electric or gas-powered machinery could spark more explosions, rescuers wearing gas masks and oxygen tanks have had to use picks and shovels to move tons of debris.
They got through one wall of debris, only to encounter another about 600 yards inside the tunnel early Tuesday. Although two conveyer belt operators may be just beyond that wall, most of the others were believed to be up to 3 miles from the mine's entrance.