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Miners Trapped 260 Feet Underground

Aired January 3, 2006 - 10:33   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go ahead and listen in to what Michael Chertoff, homeland defense secretary, talking about a difference in the way they'll be doling out funds.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF: Today as we come into renouncing the 2006 urban-area security initiative grants, I'm pleased to say we are taking a giant step forward in implementing this risk- based strategy. It's going to be more robust. It's going to be more precise. It's going to be more analytically sound, and it's going to address a number of the criticisms that have been made about past funding under this program and other programs as well. The fact of the matter is we have learned some lessons. We've listened to some of the critics, and where there is merit to some of those observations, we've incorporated changes to take account of those criticisms.

The 2006 Urban Area Security Initiative will provide $765 million directly to high-threat urban areas. That's what the statute and that's what Congress has ordered, and this year we've identified 35 areas that are eligible to compete for these funds. I want to use the word area very deliberately. We're talking about areas and not cities. The 35 areas we're talking about encompass 95 cities with populations of 100,000 people are more. A single urban area may in fact include several cities. For example, what we have identified as the California Bay area consists of Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, as well as other smaller communities.

In a sense, this year's formula and approach to this urban-area security initiative grant program focuses upon geographic regions as opposed to political jurisdictions. Why do we do that? Well, one thing we've done is we looked at the lessons of the past year. We've looked at what happened in the hurricanes. We've looked at what happened over in London with the terrorist attacks.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He's talking about how they're going to rearrange from the funds that are given out to fight terrorism. There have been critics that have said that the money has gone to rural areas, where the threat of terrorism is not as high as it is in some of the more metropolitan areas. He said that system is going to be reassessed.

If you'd like to hear more about the plans from Michael Chertoff, you can go to You might be asking today, what is Pipeline? Well, it is a technology that is everywhere. It's mobile, and wireless and virtual. This is speed-of-light information age, and we know that you need to know what you want to know when you want to know it. And that's why CNN is opening up an information Pipeline.

Melissa Long now shows thus new offering and how it can keep you up to date.


MELISSA LONG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The promise of uninterrupted multiple live news feeds and commercial-free content all under your command is now a reality with CNN pipeline, and it's going to give you new choices when it comes to how you get your news.

Here at CNN's global headquarters in Atlanta, we're constantly collecting news feeds from all over the world. These are unedited, often live. Throughout the day, the pipeline staff selects the four most compelling newsworthy feeds and makes them available to you in the four pipes you'll see within the Pipeline player.

(on camera): These streaming feeds are constantly changing throughout the day, as live events end and new ones begin.

So whether it's breaking news, a car chase, presidential news briefings, you'll be able to follow what's going on as it happens right from your desktop.

(voice-over): From satellite feed to the control room, from our servers to your desktop, CNN Pipeline provides you with a new window on the world.

So log on to for more information.

Melissa Long, CNN, Atlanta.


KAGAN: And again, as an example of something you will be able to see on CNN Pipeline today, you can follow the ongoing efforts to find miners trapped underground in West Virginia. And as we were saying, right now Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff holding a news conference. And at 12:15, you can join a White House briefing. You can see the entire thing unedited. So not only Pipeline, but here on CNN, we are awaiting for this latest news conference set to begin out of West Virginia on the latest on the efforts to rescue the 13 miners trapped underground.

We'll be back in a moment.


KAGAN: Once again, we're standing by waiting for this news conference to begin out of West Virginia, the latest on the efforts to rescue the 13 miners trapped underground.

While we are waiting for that, imagine the hundreds worried relatives and friends that are gathered at the Sago (ph) Baptist Church just across the street from that mine.


KAGAN (voice-over) It's a horrific ordeal for family members of the miners. Rescue and mine officials are giving them periodic updates on their loved ones, but it's a nerve-wracking wait.

LORETTA ABLES, FIANCEE OF TRAPPED MINER: It's really hard. There's a big burden on me. I won't eat or nothing till he's out. If he's breathing, I'll guarantee you he's digging, trying to get out. I know he is. I hope he is.

AMBER HELMS, DAUGHTER OF TRAPPED MINER: I knew once I answered the phone that's what it was.

JUDY SHACKLESFORD, SISTER OF TRAPPED MINER: I'm hoping he's strong, so you know, he's like we are. I'm hoping he's not hurt too bad.

A. HELMS: He is just -- he's an unbelievable person. I know -- I have the utmost faith that he will pull through.

KAGAN (voice-over): The families are understandably down, but they're holding out hope that their loved ones will be OK. The one certainty that they're clinging to: their confidence in the training and determination of the rescue teams and the miners.

NICK HELMS, SON OF TRAPPED MINER: He's been in mines for 34 years, working on his 35th. He'll be 51 in February and, you know, he's had some close calls before. He's a big, strong man and I'm sure he's doing everything he can to help everyone down there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miners stick together, all of them, no matter if you're from West Virginia or Pennsylvania, they all know what you have to go through.


KAGAN: Well, speaking of Pennsylvania, the families and rescue workers are undoubtedly turning their thoughts to Somerset, Pennsylvania. In fact, today the crews are using the very same drilling equipment that helped rescue nine miners from that drama in 2002.

CNN's Tom Foreman has the details on a rescue that can both provide inspiration and insight.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For three days, families and friends of nine miners in Pennsylvania waited, prayed and watched as rescuers tried to pull their men from the earth.

The miners were trapped when a drill accidentally broke through to a flooded mine shaft and an underwater river suddenly filled their escape route. The men were caught on a small pile of coal in a chamber only four feet tall and 12 feet wide and, there, they faced a wide array of threats.

The frigid water all around supercooled the air, bringing the danger of hypothermia; running out of air or seepage of poisonous underground gases were constant fears. The miners had almost no food and there was no guarantee the water would not eventually overtake their tiny island.

Above ground, rescuers faced their own challenges since they had no communication with the trapped men, could not even be sure if they were alive -- rescuers had to use mining maps and global positioning satellite systems to calculate where the survivors might be.

They knew as they prepared to drill that missing the target could at best cost priceless hours and, at worst, a collapse or more flooding.

In this case, the rescuers' calculations were accurate. After cutting a ventilation shaft through so they could pump fresh, warm air to the trapped miners, they quickly followed with a wider rescue shaft and all nine men were raised to safety.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


KAGAN: It's the kind of ending they are hoping for in West Virginia. Waiting to get the latest information from the news conference. It was supposed to start about 15 minutes ago. As soon as it does begin, you will see that live here on CNN.

And we will not leave this story, going well into prime time. "Larry King Live," 9:00 P.M. Eastern tonight -- he will have family reaction and more on the rescue efforts. And then at 10:00 P.M. Eastern, our Anderson Cooper is there live on the scene. He will bring you the latest on the efforts to rescue the miners. We're back in a moment.


KAGAN: And we're taking a look at what is on "Pipeline" right now. That's our new feature -- our new technology -- on That's the news conference that was held at 7:30 A.M. Eastern this morning, which was the last time we had an update on the rescue efforts on the miners in West Virginia. We're standing by for another news conference that was supposed to start at 10:30 A.M. Eastern. And when that does begin, you'll see that live right here on CNN.



KAGAN: So, just ahead. It's a race against time. The desperate search for 13 miners continues in West Virginia.

Families are forced to just watch and wait. We'll talk with a mining expert, coming up next, about the challenges they face.

Plus an update for you on the corruption scandals dubbed the Enron of the Potomac. It has the makings for a bestselling novel. There's power, politics, money and access to those at the top.

But today, the drama plays out in real life. Details from the second hour of on CNN LIVE TODAY begins after a short break.


KAGAN: We're still standing by waiting for the news conference to begin out of West Virginia. The latest on the coal miners and the efforts to rescue them.

Also we're following the Jack Abramoff story, the former lobbyist pleading guilty to a number of charges. The White House having a little bit of response in just the last hour.

White House spokesperson Scott McLellan was asked about it during the morning gaggle where reporters are briefed, and he said, quote, "Apparently Abramoff is going to be entering a plea and acknowledge wrongdoing, and he is reportedly acknowledging and is unacceptable and outrageous. If laws were broken, then he must be held accountable for what he has done."

We expect Ed Henry to be along in the next hour to give us more context about what that means for those of us across the country, outside of the beltway.



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