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Fire Forces Miners to Seek Safety

Blaze is put out today; about 70 workers at the Canadian operation are safe in refuge rooms.

January 30, 2006|From Associated Press

ESTERHAZY, Canada — A fire that broke out Sunday in a potash mine in Saskatchewan, forcing about 70 trapped miners to retreat to refuge rooms with oxygen and other supplies, was put out early today.

Officials said they believed all the miners would be brought to the surface shortly.

"The fire is out; it's obviously good news," Marshall Hamilton, a spokesman for Mosaic Co., the Minneapolis firm that operates the mine, said in a telephone briefing from the site. "They're all safe, they're all secure, they're all accounted for, and we'll be escorting them out of the mine sometime tonight."

Hamilton said a rescue team had reached the refuge rooms and reported to officials on the surface that the blaze had been extinguished.

Rescuers can now begin the process of ventilating the mine to allow the miners to leave as many as six of the safe rooms in which they had taken refuge, he said.

The size of the mine -- about 18.6 miles by 12 miles -- could add to the delay of clearing the smoke.

It was not immediately known what caused the blaze, Hamilton said.

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