Miners trapped underground for six days are rescued

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The Independent Online

Two gold-miners trapped nearly a kilometre underground for almost a week were found alive yesterday by rescuers in what local people hailed as a miracle.

The tiny gold-mining community of Beaconsfield in Tasmania erupted in scenes of joy last night as news spread that two men were still alive and expected to be rescued today.

The manager of Beaconsfield gold mine, Matthew Gill, said the two miners - Todd Russell, 35, and Brant Webb, 36 - were believed to have survived in the area where they were trapped when a small earthquake triggered a rock fall last Tuesday. The rock fall sealed them in the mine and killed one of their workmates. "More information will be released as it comes to hand, but obviously the focus will be on the rescue effort," Mr Gill said yesterday.

Amid jubilant scenes on the streets of Beaconsfield, Mr Webb's son Zach said last night he hoped to hug his father today.

"It's absolutely awesome. We've been jumping and screaming, kissing everyone, hugging and yelling. So I'm really happy about the situation," he said. "We are really going to be celebrating."

Barry Easther, the local mayor, called the men's survival "an absolute miracle".

Mr Easther said he had been told that rescuers had spoken to the men, although it was not immediately clear how they had communicated. "It's just unbelievable news," Mr Easther said.

But he added: "There's still a lot of technical work to do to get them out. I believe they've heard voices and exchanged conversation. They say miracles happen. [But] I didn't think there was going to be one at Beaconsfield."

Earlier yesterday, about 50 residents of Beaconsfield had gathered at a local church to pray for the missing miners.

Rescuers have for days slowly been digging a new 36-metre tunnel, removing 780 tons of rock, toward where the missing men were last seen in an attempt to reach them, but hopes had been fading that the two men had survived their ordeal.

The body of the only miner killed in the rock fall was found last Thursday.

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