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News Wrap: Search Stalls for Missing W.Va. Miners

April 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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In other news Thursday, explosive gasses again forced emergency crews to abandon rescue efforts in a West Virginia coal mine where 25 men died on Monday. Also, military officials said two U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq.
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KWAME HOLMAN: Anatoly Dobrynin has died. He was Soviet ambassador to Washington during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Russian government announced his passing today. It did not give a cause of death. Dobrynin was ambassador to the U.S. from 1962 to 1986. Many historians have said he helped resolve the Cuban crisis in October of 1962 with his behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

Anatoly Dobrynin was 90 years old.

Rescue crews in West Virginia tried and failed today to get into a coal mine where 25 men died on Monday. Four other men have been missing in the mine since then.

The day began with hopes of ending the four-day drama at the Upper Big Branch Mine. But search teams ran into dangerous levels of lethal gases. And, with that, mine safety officials ordered them to turn back.

Kevin Stricklin of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said there was no choice.

KEVIN STRICKLIN, administrator for coal mine safety and health, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration: This is a setback. It’s not something that they won’t get back in. We’re going to continue to monitor that borehole number one. They are in danger, and that’s the whole intent of evacuating them from the mine.

KWAME HOLMAN: Once the crews were out, drilling resumed for a second, larger hole to allow more ventilation, and Stricklin said the teams might try again tonight.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.Va.: We’re down to the long wall area.

KWAME HOLMAN: West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin said there still was a slight chance the missing miners took refuge in an airtight safety chamber containing four days of food, water and oxygen.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN: If we have any hope of survival and they’re in a rescue chamber, they’re still OK. That’s — I mean, that’s the sliver of hope we have. And it’s a long shot. Everyone’s been up front about that, because this was a horrible blast. But, if they’re there, they’re OK.

KWAME HOLMAN: In the meantime, the long wait continued for the families of the missing and for those confirmed dead, but whose bodies have not been recovered.

KEVIN STRICKLIN: It’s a roller coaster for these people. It’s very emotional. You can only imagine what it would be like. And it’s — they’re very understanding.

KWAME HOLMAN: The mine owner, Massey Energy, had been cited repeatedly for safety violations. Today, the company’s CEO, Don Blankenship, went on the social media site Twitter, and urged prayers for both victims and rescuers. He also criticized news coverage of the disaster.

President Obama ordered mine safety officials to report next week on the West Virginia disaster and on how to prevent a repeat.

Two American soldiers were killed today on patrol in northern Iraq. And a NATO service member died in fighting in Eastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban also released video of a U.S. Army private 1st class, Bowe Bergdahl. He’s been missing in Afghanistan since last June. In the message, Bergdahl pleaded to be sent home.

Meanwhile, Afghan police said they arrested five would-be suicide bombers in Kabul early this morning. They found explosives stashed beneath the engine block of the men’s vehicle.

Heavy rains overnight triggered massive mudslides near Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. At least 200 people were buried and feared dead. Rescue workers searched for victims in a slum that was built on top of a landfill. Officials said that made the ground especially unstable under recent heavy rains. Mudslides earlier this week already had killed at least 153 people and left thousands homeless.

United Airlines and U.S. Airways may try again to merge. It was widely reported today the two carriers are in talks to combine, creating the nation’s second largest carrier. Delta is the largest. United and U.S. Airways also considered merging in 2008, but ultimately shelved the idea.

Wall Street made modest gains today, after news that sales at major retailers were up 9 percent last month. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 29 points to close at 10927. The Nasdaq rose five points to close above 2436.

Scientists have publicly unveiled two skeletons of a creature that may open a new chapter in human evolution. The fossil remains were found in South Africa. They’re nearly two million years old and may have been a transitional species between apes and man. The find was detailed in the latest issue of the journal “Science,” published today.

Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the “NewsHour”‘s Web site — for now, back to Jim.