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Relatives of miners trapped at a gold mine affected by a landslide wait for news of their loved ones at a tent in San Juan Arriba, on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera


By Jorge Cabrera

SAN JUAN ARRIBA Honduras (Reuters) - Rescuers said there was little hope that eight miners trapped underground in an illegal Honduran gold mine would be found alive, as a group of local miners prepared a last-ditch attempt to save their colleagues.

Rescue workers said they had smelled foul odours coming from the mine during an operation on Friday to free three of the 11 workers trapped by a landslide at the mine in San Juan Arriba on Wednesday. [ID:nL2N0PF0UK]

There have been no signs of life from the eight still missing. Their location in the mine, a labyrinth of vertical and horizontal tunnels, is unknown.

"More than 60 hours have passed now and its difficult to think that they are alive," rescue spokesman Oscar Triminio said.

Ten miners who know the area well were on Saturday gearing up to enter the mine to try to find the missing workers.

"We cannot leave knowing that there are eight colleagues inside the mine," Esteban Estrada, who leads the local group of miners told a news conference.

"We will go to where we have found some remnants of clothing which we presume are those of our colleagues and where there was a strong smell of something rotting."

The head of the national civil protection service Ulises Alvarado said that he would wait for the result of the search before deciding whether to use heavy machinery to enter the mine.

The machinery would be a last resort and only used if there was no hope of finding workers alive. Rescue operations had been suspended since Friday night due to the risk of new landslides inside the mine trapping rescue workers. Teams from Guatemala and El Salvador are helping with the Honduran rescue efforts.

The mine is in a mountainous area in southern Honduras where a vast network of underground tunnels makes up more than 50 mines. Small-scale gold extraction has been revived in the area in recent years due to higher gold prices.

"I pray to God that they get him out to me ... so that I can bury him in a dignified way," Rosa Carcamo, whose 17-year-old nephew Yovany Carcamo was one of the eight still trapped, told local media.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Stephen Powell and Lisa Shumaker)

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