Rescuers bang on pipe — no response
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Rescuers drilled into a coal mine where 25 people died in an explosion but got no answer this morning when they banged on a pipe, trying to communicate with possible survivors. Crews needed to bore at least one more hole to release poison gases before searchers could enter the Upper Big Branch mine to look for four people still missing in the worst U.S. mining accident in more than two decades. The company that owns the mine, Massey Energy Co., frequently sidesteps hefty fines by aggressively contesting safety violations, including recent problems with the ventilation system that clears away combustible methane gas. Methane was blamed for the explosion that rocked the mine Monday, and a dangerous buildup of that gas along with carbon monoxide prevented anyone from getting inside to pull out the bodies of 18 dead miners or to look for the four still unaccounted for. Rescuers hoped they might somehow have reached a chamber where they could survive for four days. Seven bodies were pulled out after the explosion, and two miners were hospitalized. Gov. Joe Manchin said the first hole reached the Upper Big Branch Mine after boring through about 1,090 feet of earth and rock. Rescuers banged on the drill pipe for 15 minutes in hopes of being heard below ground, but got no response.