News August 2003

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Trapped miners and tunnellers rescued

7 August. PTL! In León workers have succeeded in a two day effort to to rescue two coal face workers trapped in a mine, while in Segovia, over 30 tunnellers on the Madrid-Valladolid high speed rail line were trapped for several hours yesterday as an explosion in the locomotive caught them between the tunnelling machine and the access train. We thank God that the 30 were all safely rescued. A rescue team continues at work in León, opening a new gallery to reach the two trapped men. Early this morning contact was resumed with them and it looks like they will be brought out safely. Eight others managed to escape when 30m of the gallery collapsed.

These accidents reveal two extremes of underground work in Spain today. In the El Bierzo coal mining region of León most current work is merely to prevent old mines from caving in. Few mines are still being drilled, as these men were doing. In Segovia, a tunnel is being built to link Madrid with the north of Spain, specifically at first to the capital of Castilla y León, Valladolid, for 28 km under the Guadarrama range which rises to over two thousand metres (6,000 ft). The tunnel will probably not rise above 1,000m and cut over 50 km off the route to just 150 km (94 miles) and journey time from almost two and a half hours to about 55 minutes.

In another event in the past 24 hours, the Viellha tunnel under the Pyrenees in Catalonia was closed for some time due to falling roof slabs. This is one of the oldest and least safe tunnels of its kind in Europe.