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Crews Still Trying to Reach Trapped Miners; Scorched Prairies; Abramoff Plea Agreement

Aired January 3, 2006 - 10:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go ahead and start our next hour of CNN LIVE TODAY with a look at what's happening "Now in the News."
Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has reached a deal with federal prosecutors. He will plead guilty to fraud, corruption, and tax evasion charges later today. That word from a source close to the negotiations.

As a lobbyist, Abramoff had connections to Republican leaders in Washington, including former House majority leader Tom DeLay. There also, though, are Democrats that could be implicated in this investigation. A live report is straight ahead.

Three days into the new year the Homeland Security Department is doling out grants to urban areas that face a threat of terror attacks. Just moments ago, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced grants of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars. They'll go to 35 urban regions believed to be high-risk areas. Those regions include 95 major cities. Chertoff says the program this year is a risk-based strategy that's more bust and analytically sound than in past years.

In the Bavarian Alps, rescuers have suspended their search for more possible survivors of a roof collapse at an ice skating rink. They fear the ruins could collapse even further.

The roof gave way yesterday after a heavy snowfall. Right now, German TV reports the death toll is at least 11, and authorities say several people are still unaccounted for.

The U.S. military is looking into claims that American air strikes have killed six members of an Iraqi family. Those strikes took place north of Baghdad. A provincial government spokesman says three other members of the family were seriously wounded in the attack.

The Florida teenager who made his way to Iraq over the holidays without telling his parents is back among more familiar surroundings, his prep school. Sixteen-year-old Farris Hassan is back in class today, but only after his parents and school officials discussed his absences.

Hassan's impromptu trip to Baghdad took his parents by surprise but it fascinated TV viewers. His mom she's they will be talking to the media tonight.

Good morning. Welcome to CNN LIVE TODAY. Let's check some of the time around the world.

It is 11:00 a.m. in Tallmansville, West Virginia; just after 10:00 a.m. in Oklahoma City.

From CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Daryn Kagan.

We start this hour in West Virginia, where a desperate search, an anxious vigil and uncertainty over the fate of 13 coal miners goes on. It's been more than 28 hours since an explosion trapped the miners 260 feet underground.

Air quality tests this morning revealed high levels of carbon monoxide in the search area. An official with the mine said he was very discouraged by the finding but still holding out some amount of hope.

Earlier today, rescuers made it more than 9,200 feet into the main shaft of the mine. A robot equipped with a camera is going further in from there.

Let's go live now to the scene of the mine explosion. For the latest on the rescue effort, Kimberly Osias joins us now from Tallmansville, West Virginia -- Kimberly.


Well, we are still waiting for the latest press conference to begin. It was slated to start around 10:30. There has obviously been an extensive delay.

We do know -- I've just heard from the governor's office that Governor Manchin is down at the chapel area, the Sago Baptist Church and chapel area where the families have been sort of sequestered from the media, really given a buffer zone and ample time to breathe and to pray and to have their sort of alone quiet time.

He has been spending as much time with these families as he can. This is a man who was hit personally by the loss of his own uncle back in 1968 when he was a junior in college. So it hits him to the core.

He was in Atlanta yesterday and flew here immediately, was there for the football game. But wanted to be with his people, wanted to be with them right now.

Obviously, what this portends we don't know. Why there is a delay, we have no idea what is going on. But I can tell you that these officials with the International Coal Group do systematically meet with the family members first to inform them of everything before they give it to the media.

And as you mentioned, Daryn, just earlier we did know that as far down as they were able to get and they were able to sort of drill about a six and a half inch hole down into the area, into that second left is what they're calling it, the second left tunnel of this mine, they did find very, very noxious fumes with excessive carbon monoxide to the tune of about more than three times what the average human can handle. So that certainly does not portend well.

KAGAN: Kimberly Osias, live in West Virginia.

This is an agonizing time for relatives of the trapped miners. They're holding out hope. They are waiting for any word about their loved ones.

Earlier, one of the relatives talked about the emotional roller- coaster that comes with each little bit of news.


TERRI GOFF, RELATIVE OF TRAPPED MINER: Well, at first when they told us that the carbon monoxide level was too high for anybody to survive, it kind of crushed the hopes of a lot of people in there. But then when they stated that the camera was sent down and they didn't see any trace of anything, it was still a mixed emotion until we got outside.

We cried a little bit and we realized that there's still hope. They could be stuck in another place. And they're going to drill in another place and, you know, maybe we can still find these guys. And we need to.


KAGAN: Bruce Dial is a mining expert. He's been watching the rescue effort with us. And he joins us now from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bruce, thank you for your time.

BRUCE DIAL, MINING EXPERT: It's good to be here, Daryn.

KAGAN: How hopeful are you at this time of a successful rescue of these 13 miners?

DIAL: Well, with the gas test that they received from the drill hole earlier, it is discouraging. But we're not giving up hope yet, because the miners could be barricaded in another part of the mine where they were able to find oxygen.

KAGAN: So what needs to happen at this point?

DIAL: Well, now they need to -- if the robot can't find them, they'll have to drill more holes in different sections of the mine to see if they can locate where the men are barricaded. And hopefully, the oxygen is going to be able to continue to flow to that area.

KAGAN: And taking the oxygen levels out of it, what we watched in 2002 in Somerset in Pennsylvania, those miners lasted for three days. What's the time frame on how long these miners can last without getting out?

DIAL: Well, in 2002, the main problem was water. They were inundated by water. In this one, there was an explosion and a -- the gases are burning. And that's causing the carbon monoxide, which is a big difference. If carbon monoxide is present in high dosages that they found, that's about three times the limit that a person could survive for more than 15 minutes.

KAGAN: So in that case they wouldn't have a chance?

DIAL: If they were in the area where they initially drilled the first hole, the chances would not be good, no.

KAGAN: In any case, they still will have to get down there to get the men out.

DIAL: Yes. They would -- they would still have to go down and get the men out, but they could take their time slower, make sure that they don't injure their rescue crews, and that kind of thing.

KAGAN: Not take as high of a risk. I understand of the 13, nine have 30 or more years experience. So this is a very experienced bunch. That has to be on their side, that if they would know any trick, any technique, it would be this group of men.

DIAL: Yes. These miners have been around for a long -- received training every year since they've been in there. They've been trained on what has happened at other mine disasters, and they -- they would know, like, every few minutes somebody needs to get up and move around to make sure the air stays stirred up, that they don't have oxygen over in this pocket and not in another section.

KAGAN: Let's go back to the beginning here. This all started with an explosion. What type of explosion would take place like this?

DIAL: Well, what -- initially, it looks like there was some type of a methane explosion. And usually with a methane explosion, that will take the coal dust in the mine and stir it up and put the coal dust in the air. And then the coal dust becomes explosive, and it continues on that way.

KAGAN: I also understand this mine was shut down a couple days for the holidays. Would that play into a safety situation?

DIAL: It could if some of the ventilation wasn't getting into certain parts of the mine, if some of the equipment were damaged in some way during that time that nobody knew about, it could play into it.

KAGAN: And at this point, once again, you say the best hope is that the men are in a different part of the mine than was first believed.

DIAL: Yes, they would be in a different section of the mine that still had oxygen flowing to it.

KAGAN: Bruce Dial, live from North Carolina.

Thank you for your expertise.

DIAL: You're welcome, Daryn.

KAGAN: Thank you, Bruce.

DIAL: Bye-bye.

KAGAN: And now we move on to the firefight on the prairie. Winds are expected to pick up considerably across the dry plains of Oklahoma and Texas today. That is not good news. About 500 homes have burned so far. And there is no rain on the horizon.

Correspondent Jonathan Freed joins us live now from Oklahoma City with the latest there -- Jonathan.


I can tell you that we're approximately 10 miles northeast of downtown Oklahoma City, which is over in that direction. I'm standing in the middle a one-square-mile area that started burning on Sunday afternoon. The fire has been out here for about a day now, but the family home that I'm standing in front of is still smoldering more than a day after firefighters basically declared it out.

Now, we spoke to the people who were living here earlier. They told us that they had no more than 10 minutes' warning to get out of this house. And that's very typical of what people have been experiencing here.

Very little warning. They would see smoke on the horizon, maybe some flames. They just had to grab what they could and leave.

Now, one of the things that's going on now in downtown Oklahoma City is a briefing from state officials. We're hearing that, among other things, they've divided the state into six areas and they're pre-positioning firefighting assets.

One of the reasons for doing that today, Daryn, is that they're expecting a warm day. It has indeed been warming up.

We got here before sunrise today. And it's supposed to get into the mid-70s. There is some wind, as people were predicting. I can't tell here if it's quite as strong as they were expecting. But with the hot temperatures, wind, and dry conditions, there was definitely concern here from the firefighters that I spoke to yesterday, as well as the governor, who I chatted with last night, concerns that perhaps we could see conditions similar to what happened on Sunday.

Officials were saying at that news conference going on that they're bringing in an additional four air tankers. They have four now. That would bring it to a total of eight. And they were saying, among other things, that these tankers can -- can drop water on an area the size of a couple of football field lengths.

So that is the situation right now. And the sky is blue, still no rain in sight here in Oklahoma -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Not encouraging there. From Oklahoma City, Jonathan Freed.

Thank you.

And as Jonathan was mentioning, right now officials in Oklahoma are briefing reporters on the latest firefighting efforts. We're going to move on to other coverage, but for our CNN Pipeline subscribers, you can follow this live coverage on CNN Pipeline.

Well, the worst is over in rain-soaked northern California. Finally, the rain has let up and floodwaters are receding there. Residents are now assessing the damage and cleaning up the muddy mess left behind.

Two powerful weekend storms dumped up to 10 inches of rain in some parts of California wine country. At least three deaths were blamed on the storm.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured some of the washed-out areas yesterday. He declared a state of emergency in seven counties. Initial estimates put damage in two towns alone at more than $100 million.

It brings us to the weather and Bonnie Schneider.


KAGAN: And for more on the California rain and flooding, including a look at lots of pictures, you can log on to our Web site at

To Washington, and a plea agreement that may put prominent lawmakers in legal jeopardy. A source close to the negotiations says former high-flying lobbyist Jack Abramoff will admit to trading gifts for influence.

Congressional Correspondent Ed Henry is here to explain the significance this morning and how far-reaching this could go.

Ed, good morning.


That's right, this plea deal with the Bush Justice Department, basically three counts involved here, conspiracy to commit bribery, as you suggested, one count of tax evasion, and one count of mail fraud, in exchange for Abramoff cooperating with prosecutors which could implicate lawmakers and also some congressional staffers in both parties. That's why people across the country will care about this.

It's right here in the plea deal struck with the Justice Department. It says Abramoff conspired to "corruptly give, offer and promise things of value, including money, meals, trips, entertainment to public officials and their relatives with the intent to influence and in return for agreements to perform official acts benefiting defendant Abramoff and Mike Scanlon, as well, his business partner."

It's right here in the plea deal. In layman's terms, that basically means Abramoff and Scanlon, the business partners, were trying to bribe members of Congress.

We know about the gifts, trips to Scotland, meals, skybox tickets to sporting events here in Washington. What members of Congress, though, we don't know what did they do in exchange for it. Where's the bribery? That's what we have to find out -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Ed. And we'll hear more from you in a little bit.

Right now we want to go live to West Virginia. The governor there speaking about the rescue efforts for the miners.

Let's listen in.


GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: ... and do what they're taught to do and they're trained to do. This is a very experienced crew.

And with that, we still pray for miracles in West Virginia. We believe in miracles. And we're hoping for that miracle, and we have a lot of faith and hope right now that that's what we're going to find.

It's going to be a long day, I'll tell you that. We won't know anything until later today, this evening, probably. So I didn't know if you all knew the timetables we're working under, but things are progressing and now they're taking the first drill rig and going to do the third hole.

We're doing readings at both -- on the second section, which is at the face of the second section and the entry of the second section. That will tell us if there was enough good air, if you will, to make it survivable.

So we're looking for everything we can. And we're still very hopeful for the best.

QUESTION: At this point, Governor, your machinery is making an entrance point. But you still haven't physically gone in with your rescue teams.

MANCHIN: The rescue teams are in.


MANCHIN: They're moving forward, but we haven't gotten to the face of where the -- where the explosion happened.

You know, what we're dealing with here is there was an ignition that caused an explosion. To have an explosion in a mine, you have to have fuel. That fuel can be in the form of methane, hydrogen or coal dust.

With that being said, we don't know what happened. And everyone is speculating, and we just don know.

We're still in very much of a rescue mode. We're very hopeful that we're going to have a very happy conclusion to this rescue.

We have families that know the inherent risk of mining. They're up there, and they're hunkered down, they're pulling together as families do in West Virginia.

We're very thankful for all the prayers and support we're getting from around the world, really, and around the country. But this is truly a family effort right now. And they're pulling from the strength from those families.

With that, we still have hope. I tell them I haven't given up. I haven't lost faith. I have hope that that miracle is going to be here for West Virginia. So with that, we're hanging on to that.


QUESTION: Can you tell us (INAUDIBLE)? I know they got in about 9,000 feet this morning. Can you tell us how much further they are.

MANCHIN: We're close to 11,000 right now, 10,000, a little over 10,000, approaching 11,000. We're moving forward.

And when the -- when the robot went down, it ran into some difficulties. They're repairing that, but it did not stop the team. So they didn't stop to repair it and wait.

They're moving forward. And they feel that the conditions are safe enough to do that. And I will tell you that we're working in a unit here.

It's not one taking charge over the other. It's our state officials, our state director. We have the federal, the (INAUDIBLE), and we have the local company here.

We're making decisions. We're all agreeing unanimously and moving forward.

So we have no problem there. We have all the equipment, we have all the personnel. And we're doing everything humanly possible with the best that we have. And that is the best that's available in the country.

QUESTION: Governor, (INAUDIBLE) right now was a six-inch-wide hole to test the air quality and could be used as (INAUDIBLE).

MANCHIN: You can't use a six-inch hole for a rescue hole.

QUESTION: No, a three-foot hole they would redrill.

MANCHIN: We have -- we have equipment available to do if that rescue is needed. But it's not like the Cue (ph) mine, where they had to use that type of an approach for rescue.

We're moving in, in the entries where they entered. We haven't found any debris that have impeded us from moving forward. We're not having to dig our way through.

They're moving through, but very cautiously. People wonder, they say, well, you know, I could walk from here to 12,000 feet fairly quickly. But when you're trying to secure the area as you're moving, you've got to make sure that the rescue team does not get ahead of an unsecured area and then they get trapped.

That has happened before. And it happened in Alabama. So we're going to make sure that doesn't happen here. And we've got the best of the best in the country.

QUESTION: Governor, do you believe that 13, if they're, in fact, still alive, are just simply staying in a good air pocket waiting for the rescue?

MANCHIN: They usually do. I mean, this is what they're taught. These are professionals. This is a professional group of people, and they're well trained, and they have an average of 20-years-plus experience.

So they're going to go to where they know they have safety and stay there until the rescue. And that's usually the procedure that they go under.


MANCHIN: Well, no. You have to go up and make the turn into section one, in what we call one left. And one left, you know, you're...

KAGAN: All right. We go from the one news conference with the West Virginia governor to officials in West Virginia talking about rescue efforts on the 13 miners.

Let's listen to that.


QUESTION: What's your personal opinion, right now, of how this rescue operation is going and what you might find?

BEN HATFIELD, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: What is my personal opinion of it? I believe we have the smartest, most talented people in the industry working as hard as they can to get our people out safely. That's what I believe we're doing and we're doing, I think, a good job of it. It is the sole focus of everyone in the command center to get to those men, get them out of the mine safely. And that is our singular focus at this point.

QUESTION: Is it inevitable that your, I guess (INAUDIBLE) rescue team is going to run into this high carbon monoxide that you guys tested earlier? HATFIELD: It is likely certainly that we will encounter high carbon monoxide, since the drill hole encountered high carbon monoxide when it was completed.

So, yes, we're driving toward a point where that will be a problem and we'll have to bring intake air in to sweep out those gases.

QUESTION: How hard would that be?

HATFIELD: It's the way the process normally works. We have to construct ventilation to reroute and sweep out the fumes and make the plan that's under way.

QUESTION: Can you explain the persistence of high carbon monoxide? Is it a leftover from the explosion? Were there continuing fires after the explosion? Why would that have been the case?

HATFIELD: It continues to be our belief, at this point -- and again, we don't know all the answers -- but it continues to be our belief that this is the remnant product of the initial explosion.

HATFIELD: And there's no indication at this point that there is an ongoing fire of any sort.

QUESTION: Have you tried to communicate with them since the last time we talked?

HATFIELD: Not since our update to you this morning, where we pounded on the drill steel and received no response. We will go through that same process when we put down drill hole number two and again when we put down drill hole number three.

QUESTION: I asked this question of you this morning (INAUDIBLE). The level of damage and what the rescue crews are finding in terms of damage from fire and heat, any update on that? Any change in that? This morning you, kind of, said there really wasn't that much.

HATFIELD: What we're continuing to encounter, again, are what I would call light to moderate disruption of ventilation structures. No massive burning, no burnt cables, no charred areas. All indications are that it's a blast of air, that through the pressure pushed over some of the ventilation structures.

QUESTION: More concussion damage...


QUESTION: ... rather than fire.

HATFIELD: Yes, essentially concussion impact.

QUESTION: The rescue crews are bypassing, repairing those and moving forward?

HATFIELD: Yes, they have an intricate process where they construct replacement structures, as needed, to ensure that intake air is moving with them toward the faces.

QUESTION: Is there any indication of an ongoing fire right now?

HATFIELD: None at all at this point to the best of our knowledge. No indication of a fire.

QUESTION: Could you summarize what is the major danger facing these men if they're still alive? Is it the lack of oxygen? Is it the excess carbon monoxide? What would be the major difficulty?

QUESTION: It's the impact of the carbon monoxide that's certainly by far the greatest danger. What we have found to this point isn't a deficiency of oxygen as much as it is an excess of the carbon monoxide.

QUESTION: Can you describe the morale of the rescue crews right now?

HATFIELD: We have some of the hardest working, talented people in the business. They're enthusiastically pushing forward, using their skills that they have practiced long and hard to improve. We've had tremendous cooperation from our competitors, from the state and federal agencies. Everyone has lent a hand where they could.

I would say morale is high.

HATFIELD: They are as discouraged as we are that we have not to this point received any communication from the men. But we all continue to push forward as hard as we can so long as there is hope.

QUESTION: Mr. Hatfield, you spoke this morning about these areas that you pinpoint essentially being your best guess, utilizing maps and other tools to help find them. Between then and now, what has factored into these two other points in making a decision on where to have these drilling points?

HATFIELD: It continues to be our best guess as to where the crew may have accumulated and constructed a barricade structure.

Drill hole number two is going down in the head of the one left section. That's probably the least likely location for the crew to have migrated to, but it's an area that we're going to have to measure the air on anyhow because we can't move in to second left until we've determined what the environment is in the air in first left. So essentially it's an area where we've got to measure the air and know the CO levels before we can move past it anyhow.

The third drill hole is going down at the mouth of what have we call second left, and that's in the track entry -- the hole location is. And that's another likelihood, at least our best guess, as to where the crew may have gathered.

QUESTION: Just to be completely clear, had a first left and the mouth of second left, that is what you use -- the term for what?

HATFIELD: I apologize. I'm talking in country terms. The head of the hollow is the furthest extent of the hollow going up the mountain. And the mouth of a hollow is at the entrance. So the mouth of second left is at the entrance to the panel, closer to the portal than the head of the panel or the face of the panel.

QUESTION: We heard earlier that 9,200 feet was the mouth of second left.

HATFIELD: No, that's a misunderstanding. I'm not sure where you got that.

But 9,200 feet is where our rescue team had advanced along the corridors from the portal toward the faces. They had gone a distance of 9,200 feet.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) just tell us where it is now so we're clear?

HATFIELD: It's now at 10,200 feet, and so roughly 1,000 feet further than we were early this morning.

QUESTION: What is the mouth of second left? What's that distance?

HATFIELD: Roughly 11,000 feet.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) violations for this particular mine? Have you been cited for those violations and have you paid any fines?

HATFIELD: Again, we're not going to get into the violation history or pointing fingers. That's in no one's interest at this point.

Our focus is on getting these men out safely. And that's all we're going to aim at at this point.

QUESTION: What gives you cause for optimism? There's all this discouraging news at this point? What, if anything, gives you hope that these men are still alive?

HATFIELD: The hope that we cling to is, again, with the drill hole that did penetrate in the face area of second left, we didn't see major combustion damage. We didn't see equipment turned upside down. We didn't see cables burned. There was no indication of a massive, disruptive explosion.

That's probably the brightest spot that we've encountered in the last few hours.

QUESTION: Mr. Hatfield, you keep mentioning the possibility of the men barricading themselves. What type of materials would be available for them to build a barricade?

HATFIELD: All mining crews maintain barricading materials on the section. It's my understanding it's a requirement of law.

QUESTION: Where are the materials?

HATFIELD: The materials are what we call brightest (ph) cloth, which is a curtain material, plastic-like material that's used for temporary ventilation structures. And they also have a certain quantity of wood available to construct such structures.

So it's common practice in a mine disaster situation for the barricade to be the logical choice when you don't have a safe outlet to the portal.

QUESTION: Using those materials you just described, and assuming that this crew was able to barricade themselves with good air, would that barricade have protected them from these high levels of dangerous gas for this long, for over 24 hours?

HATFIELD: We don't know. We can only hope that it might have. We really do not know that answer. A lot of it depends on the direction of air flow, how much air was flowing after the explosion occurred.

And the honest answer is, I don't know. We can just remain hopeful that that may be the case.

QUESTION: So if the air flow is pushing carbon monoxide toward them, then, obviously, that's...

HATFIELD: Then that would certainly diminish their chances.

QUESTION: If we can find them and they've just had a severe inhalation of the carbon monoxide, what sort of symptoms might they be suffering from at that time? And would there be hope for their health when they were rescued?

HATFIELD: I'm not qualified to talk, really, about the effects of carbon monoxide inhalation. I know it's certainly toxic to the body, to the system. But initial encounter with carbon monoxide isn't necessarily fatal. It has a cumulative effect and can be fatal. It's a function of how long our people might have been exposed to it, how much they might have breathed in.

QUESTION: Sir, the rescuers are doing very dangerous work. You mentioned something about the entry. Could you kind of tell us plain English so that people understand what they're doing step by step as they're slowly making their way to where they think the miners are?

HATFIELD: They have a very intricate process of measuring the quality of the air around them to be sure the rescue crews themselves don't become trapped. So they advance a very small distance, and they call outside and they relay the measurements of methane, carbon monoxide and oxygen. Those are the three measurements that we track with every forward movement.

Those numbers are called into the command center and we have a team of experts gathered around a map that look for trends or patterns that may tell us what direction of airflow is. So first and foremost, the movement forward is slowed by data gathering and assurance of clean air around them. When they encounter a disrupted ventilation structure, they have to put some temporary fix in place to keep the clean air moving forward with them.

And that can often involve the same kind of materials I was just describing with respect to temporary barricades (INAUDIBLE) material or wood or sometimes even restacking cinder blocks, depending on the materials available.

So it's dangerous in the context that they don't know what the impact of the explosion may have been on the ventilation patterns. Normally, there's a very precise, predictable pattern for a ventilation system. But when an explosion occurs, we don't know which walls might have fallen down and which ones are still standing.

So that creates a great deal of uncertainty as to what the crews are moving forward to.

QUESTION: What do they do about the debris and rock that they encounter?

HATFIELD: To this point, we've not encountered substantial debris. It's my understanding there's not even been an indication of a roof collapse of any sort. It's just some impact on ventilation structures.

QUESTION: The rescue teams pick this area of high-level carbon monoxide, how significantly is that going to slow them down? And how much more time does it take to...

HATFIELD: When the rescue teams encounter a high level of carbon monoxide, how might it slow them down?

QUESTION: Yes, how significantly, and how long does it take to wash these areas out?

HATFIELD: They've got to remedy the short circuit and the ventilation, which would be the thing that creates that problem. So they would have to patch the wall or whatever that may involve and get the clean air sweeping the gases out. It's essentially a construction project when that happens.

QUESTION: Can you give and estimate on how long it takes to do something like that?

HATFIELD: There's no way of measuring it. It varies very much depending on the nature of the damage.

QUESTION: Is there a danger that, as you fix ventilation systems, that carbon monoxide will be pushed toward the trapped miners?

HATFIELD: Our experts -- again, federal, state, everybody that knows something about these kinds of occasions -- are monitoring the maps closely to try to avoid having that kind of circumstance. I can't say that it's impossible. It could happen. But we're doing everything we can in our power to avoid it.

QUESTION: You've talked several times about fire bosses. You guys fire-bossed this area. My understanding of that -- and it was probably, I guess, maybe incorrect -- is that when fire boss it, you send a guy in to check everything out and he came back out. I'm under the impression that at least one, if not two, fire bosses, are involved in this incident today -- I mean, yesterday. Can you tell me that two fire bosses are missing?

HATFIELD: I'm only aware of one that is missing. But, yes, one of the people missing is one that conducted fire boss duties.

But the process that you're talking about takes place before the crews go in. There's a pre-shifting process required by law to check for dangerous gas accumulations, roof falls and things of that nature. And we confirmed that that process was followed before these crews entered. We do not know what went wrong.

QUESTION: What does a fire boss do after he gets done doing his job, after he gets done checking those levels?

HATFIELD: It depends on the nature of his job. Some fire bosses would return to the outside and go in with the crew to perform some supervision during the course of a shift. Other fire bosses may be belt examiners, and they would then go to a belt line and monitor the belt system. So the answer varies with the individual.

QUESTION: What happened with Mr. Helms?

HATFIELD: I do not know.

QUESTION: How did you confirm that that was done when you haven't had contact (INAUDIBLE)? How do you confirm that that process...

HATFIELD: The mine supervisors confirmed that the fire bosses called out, reported their readings and confirmed that the process had been completed.

QUESTION: But you don't know what happened to them after that, right?

HATFIELD: We do not know what happened after that at this point. We will give you further information when we have it.

I'll take one more question.

QUESTION: How about families, sir? If you've talked with families, how would you characterize their hopes and the hopes that you gave them?

This morning early on, obviously, they were very down. How's it going now?

HATFIELD: The families, much like the people that are working in the command center, are clinging to every hope of survival. And that continues to be our prayer and ambition and fervent expectation.

So families continue to, I think, be optimistic that there's a possibility that we'll have a good outcome here. But certainly the news has not been consistently favorable and we're disappointed by that.

QUESTION: Mr. Hatfield, the senior vice president's been very helpful throughout the (OFF-MIKE) gracious enough to allow a total video camera overnight to see some of the rescue crews come out. Will you give us that opportunity getting out of the daylight (OFF-MIKE)?

HATFIELD: Let me get back to you on that. I don't want to interfere with the work that's being done by the regulatory agencies and rescue teams. We have a lot of people over there that have a lot of things going on. But I'll take that request under advisement and see if we can help you on that.

KAGAN: All right, we'll try one more time. As he said, that was Ben Hatfield, president of the International Coal Group, who owns that Sago mine. Also we heard from the governor of West Virginia, saying that today, they expect the information to flow in very slowly. It's still going to be a long day. They have one hole drilled into the mine, they're working on getting two others.

Basically, they are praying for miracles in West Virginia. The news does not look good at this point, but they have not given on hope on the 13 miners that remain trapped underground. It's been about 29, 30 hours since an explosion started that crisis in West Virginia.

The White House is following the situation unfold. Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux with more on that -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, this tragic accident, of course, has also captured the attention of the White House, as well as the president. We heard earlier today from White House Press Secretary Scott Mcclellan, who said that the president has been briefed, and continues to be briefed, on the updates of that situation there. He also goes on to say that we are praying, hoping for the best, the miners and their families are in our thoughts and our prayers.

He went on to say as well, there's, of course, a federal component to the rescue and safety effort there. That through the Mine Safety and Health Administration. It is through the Department of Labor. We are told by one of our CNN producers, you can actually go online and get an update on the rescue effort online from that organization.

McClellan when the on to say, that they are responsible for the safety and rescue specialists that are on the ground, that mobile command unit that you see, also that robot that has been going into those particular areas, and that they're also monitoring gas samples, all of this a federal effort to try to see if there are survivors.

And, Daryn, the White House being careful, very cautious, trying as well to project a sense of optimism and hope -- Daryn. KAGAN: Suzanne Malveaux, live at the White House. Suzanne, thank you.

Other news to get to today, and we will do that right after this break. Stay with us.


KAGAN: Let's take a look at what's happening now in the news.

Firefighters in Oklahoma are bracing for the worst. Stronger winds and warm temperatures are expected today and that could spell disaster in battling wildfires. Just yesterday, emergency officials said all major blazes were under control.

Since November, more than 360,000 acres and 220 homes and businesses have been destroyed by wildfires in the state.

Things are looking up in water-logged northern California. The rain has let up and residents are cleaning up the wet, muddy mess left behind after two winter storms. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency in seven northern California counties. Hundreds of homes and entire farms were flooded.

Mix unseasonably warm weather with fluctuating temperatures and here is what you get.

In Kentucky, dueling tornadoes swept through parts of the state. In the aftermath, there were leveled buildings, damaged homes, downed power lines, but no injuries. Just south of Atlanta, tornadoes were also reported. Seven houses were damaged and at least three people were hospitalized with minor injuries.

Could be another couple of weeks before final results from Iraq's parliamentary elections are announced. Iraq's independent electoral commission is reviewing votes after Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups claimed fraud at the polls. So far, results show a coalition of religiously affiliated Shiites with a solid lead.

Iran says that it's resuming research into nuclear fuel production. A top official says that for now the work will not include uranium enrichment. That process can be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons. But Iranian officials say they're only interested in producing electricity.

A lawyer for former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett says that Clarett will plead not guilty to robbery charges in court today. Clarett is accused of showing a weapon and robbing two people outside of a bar in Columbus, Ohio over the weekend. Clarett turned himself into police last night.

And now the latest from West Virginia, where hope is diminishing at a coal mine where 13 miners are still trapped underground. Two news conferences from the mine just ended and here's what we now know.

Rescue teams are inside the mine shaft. One hole has been drilled, two more are in the process of being drilled. Cameras have been installed on robots. The equipment can be inserted in the holes to monitor air quality and search for signs of the miners. Air monitors this morning detected carbon monoxide at toxic levels in some areas of the mine. Mud and water are hampering the rescue teams. The federal government is now helping in the search. Rescuers have made no contact with the trapped miners so far.

As you might imagine, the family members of the 13 miners are very distraught. Many have gathered at a local church just across the street from the mine. They are praying for the best.


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. It's a big burden on me. I won't eat or nothing until he's out. If he's breathing, I 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.

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

KAGAN: 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 team and the miners.

NICK HELMS, SON OF TRAPPED MINER: He's been in the 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.

A. HELMS: 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: And we'll have more from the mine as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, health news is just ahead.

Plus, have you heard about this thing called CNN Pipeline? It's our newest, coolest, fancy technology. We'll show you how you use it and why it's important to your information services. That's just ahead.


KAGAN: All right, all you Internet savvy CNN viewers, here now, news not that you can just use, but you really use.

Introducing CNN Pipeline. It's our new on-demand broadband video service that may very well change the way you get your news, or actually add to it.

With more on Pipeline, let's go to CNN's Melissa Long. She's going to give us a preview.

Melissa, hello.


Want to tell you a little bit more about our cutting-edge innovative project called Pipeline. There's so many features, I can't possibly show them all to you right now, but I want to highlight some of the greatest features.

Among the features, the pipes, the live streaming feed which we provide you with essentially a window on the world, with what's going on. What you're looking at right now, that happened just a short time ago. That is a briefing in Washington from the Department of Homeland Security about urban security grants.

In pipe three, if you happen to pop by pipe three, you will see a live image from San Francisco, the Bay Area, so many people there trying to clean up after the rains and flooding. So that's a dreary image in pipe three.

And then you can keep a window on the temperatures all around the country in pipe four.

These live feeds will have so many events going on in just a short amount of time. Let me just check the list that we have -- the White House daily press briefing getting under way during your lunch hour, the U.N. daily briefing getting under way at noon from New York as well. The House and Senate have some ceremonial starts from Washington.

You can see it all here. And you have a choice about what you want to see. That's one of the greatest parts of CNN Pipeline.

I want to direct your attention to one of my favorite features, and that's the search function. Say you want to get up to date on a story, like Baby Noor, the little girl, the 3-month-old infant now in Atlanta from life-saving surgery. Type in her name, Noor, right there in the search video field and all the stories we have at our disposal are now at your disposal on your desktop.

Perhaps you have a favorite CNN reporter, you want to get a good laugh, type in Jeanne Moos. You will get a very long list of her stories dating back months, possibly even years. We are adding to the vast archives to make sure you have access to the deep archives here at CNN, dating back to CNN's inception.

Another really cool feature is the "Your Voice" function. From the front page right there, click on the icon that says "Your Voice." This makes your experience totally interactive. You send us a message, you send us a question and guess what? We might be able to get answers for you. For instance, last week we did an interview about security online and cookies. We took information from a Pipeline user and asked our CNN technology correspondent and had that answer within minutes for our Pipeline user -- Daryn?

KAGAN: All right. Well, congratulations on the big launch.

LONG: Thank you. I'll pass it on.

KAGAN: Melissa, thank you. We'll be looking for it.


KAGAN: Thank you.

LONG: Bye bye.

KAGAN: You heard -- let's talk about health news.

You heard Melissa mention Baby Noor. We'll get a little bit on her in just a minute.

Meanwhile, "Go, team. Rah!" Right? Well, apparently there's also more "Ow, ow, ow," from cheerleaders these days. A study finding the number of cheerleaders treated at hospitals doubled between 1990 and 2002. That's nearly 209,000 injuries. Researchers blame more elaborate and difficult stunts and coaches who were not properly trained.

New study says sports-utility vehicles do not offer child passengers added protection in a crash compared to cars. That's because SUVs are more likely to roll over in an accident. The study does say, however, that the added weight of SUVs does offer some protection in non-rollover accidents. The new report is in the journal "Pediatrics."

Now for the latest on Baby Noor.

The Iraqi baby appears just days away from life-saving surgery here in Atlanta. Doctors plan to operate on Baby Noor on Monday barring any delays. She suffers from spina bifida -- that's a birth defect where the spinal column fails to close. The U.S. National Guard troop discovered the baby and led to the push to bring her here to the U.S.

You can get your daily dose of health news online on our Web site. Go to for the latest medical news. You'll also find special reports and a health library.

We're going to have a check of the weather coming up next. Plus, for all of you who think cats are selfish and snobby, well, you're wrong, I can tell you that. But we have a story -- let me just tell you. The cat called 911. It's true, the cat called 911. And we have the story just ahead.


KAGAN: The story we've waited for all day, the cat called 911. It's true.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It sounds like a pretty remote possibility -- a cat calling 911?


MOOS: When it comes to rescuing, we expect dogs to save the day.

But 10 minutes after this Columbus, Ohio man fell out of his wheelchair and couldn't get up, a police officer showed up at his door.

ROSHEISEN: He goes, "Is there a problem here?" And I go, "Yes, I'm on the floor, but how did you know about it?" He said, "We got a 911 call from this apartment."

MOOS: And Tommy the cat was the only other one there. The phone sits on the floor. They say Tommy hit the speaker button, then the speed dial button which was programmed for 911. The cat then hung up, but dispatchers sent an officer to the apartment anyway.

Reminds us of the time a dog called 911.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911. This is Jenny. Please state your emergency. 911. Hello?

MOOS: That was Faith, a service dog trained to help her wheelchair- bound owner who passed out, fell out of the wheelchair and had a seizure.


MOOS: Faith went and got the phone.


MOOS: Then went back to the base and hit speed dial for 911. When owner Leanna Beasley (ph) heard the 911 recording...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just got chills.

MOOS: But no one expects cats to perform such feats. You're lucky if you can get a cat potty trained. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)



MOOS: True, Scarlet the cat won fame for going back into a burning building to rescue her five kittens, but just try teaching a cat to dial 911 by applying food to the proper keys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Big mound of it on the nine.

MOOS: Another on the one.

But licking 911 doesn't get you an emergency operator, it gets you a yucky phone.

Next thing you know, cats will be changing TV channels.

(on camera): Put on CNN, Othello.

(voice-over): Othello prefers Animal Planet. And once he's mastered the remote, he'll be surfing the Web for the "Cat in the Hat."

(on camera): Othello, let's try the I-Pod next.

(voice-over): Who needs a cat in a hat when you've got a cat on an I-Pod.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KAGAN: The cat called 911 -- told you.

Thank you, Jeanne.

I'm Daryn Kagan. International news is up next.

I'll be back in a few minutes with the latest headlines from the U.S. in about 20 minutes.


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