With no hope of finding 65 missing miners alive, a few dozen relatives are keeping a solemn vigil outside a collapsed coal mine in northern Mexico, hoping efforts to recover remains of their kin will begin soon.
Maria Cantu said on Sunday she's come to terms with the fact that her 32-year-old son, Raul Villasana, will never emerge from the mine alive, but insisted his remains must be brought out.
"They have the obligation to get them out of there so they can have Christian burials," she said. "The mine is no kind of tomb for them."
A gas explosion Feb. 19 raised the temperature inside the Pasta de Conchos mine to 600 degrees Celsius (1,110 degrees Fahrenheit) and released toxic methane and carbon monoxide that gobbled up nearly all of the oxygen.
On Saturday mining company officials acknowledged there was no way the trapped coal miners could have survived, ending a week of anguish for relatives still holding out hope for their rescue from the mine, about 85 miles southwest of the U.S. border at Eagle Pass, Texas.
Scientists and executives from the company that owns the mine, Grupo Mexico SA de CV, say it will be until at least Monday before it will be safe enough to resume recovery efforts. Mining and government scientists said they didn't know how long it would take to search all of the mine.
Aranely Saucedo and about 15 other relatives of those buried within the mine vowed to send family members to camp outside its entrance in shifts for weeks. They said they are afraid that if they don't keep a close watch, company officials will simply declare their loved ones lost for good.
"I'm going to be here until they pull him out," said Saucedo, 24, whose 27-year-old husband, Jesus Alberto de Leon, left behind three children, ages 1, 5 and 8. "We'll see if tomorrow they go back in. We are going to wait here, because, if not, they will close the mine," reports the AP.
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