The families of two of eight miners trapped by flood waters in a zinc mine in Burkina Faso last month are hopeful the workers will be found alive.
“It’s been three weeks of sleepless nights for all of us,” a cousin of one of the trapped men told the BBC.
There has been no contact with them and a wife of another of the men said she was unhappy with the rescue efforts.
It is not known if those working more than 520m (1,706ft) below ground reached two available refuge chambers.
The Canadian owners of the mine – which is about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital, Ouagadougou – said search crews continued to work 24 hours a day.
Specialised equipment has been brought in from Ghana and South Africa to speed up the rescue efforts at the mine that had a depth of 710m.
Trevali Mining says 32 million litres of water have so far been pumped out of the mine, allowing rescue workers to reach 550m below ground.
This was 30m below where the water settled after the heavy thunderstorm on 16 April cut off electricity and communications.
In less than an hour, 125mm of rain fell – five times the average monthly amount.
According to a rescue worker who spoke to the AFP news agency, a refuge chamber, or what he called a “survival room”, was located at a depth of 580m.
It was not clear when the rescue workersreached the area.
“We are hopeful, yet angry at the same time,” said Yakouba Bama, whose cousin, Charles Bama,was one of the six Burkinabès missing, along with one worker from Tanzania and another from Zambia.
The case has caused outrage in Burkina Faso as rescue operations only got under way following protests and a sit-in at a government building at a nearby town five days after the floods.
“We don’t know if there’s enough oxygen for them and noone is supplying them with food,” the cousin said about the family’s concerns.
Brenda Mwamba, wife of trapped Zambian miner, Nune Ndonji, told BBC Focus on Africa radio that communication about the rescue efforts had been appalling – and it had taken five days for the mine managers in Burkina Faso to contact her directly in Zambia about what was going on. –BBC/AFP