Santiago (AFP)

The Chilean government has declared a state of emergency to facilitate the search for two miners trapped for a week in a mine in the country's south.

"With this step we intend to reinforce all efforts being made to find the trapped miners," said Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy. The mine is in the town of Chile Chico, in the Aysen region, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of the capital, Santiago.

By declaring a state of emergency, as is normally done after a disaster or natural catastrophe, the government is able to accelerate relief efforts and place the regional army commander in charge of rescue operations.

"As it has been seven days, we need to strengthen the participation of all state institutions to see how we can speed up the work," Aleuy said.

The accident took place June 9 as the two miners were working with heavy machinery following flooding in the Delia II pit of the Cerro Bayo mine, operated by Canadian firm Mandalay Resources.

There has been no contact with the trapped miners.

President Michelle Bachelet promised in a Twitter message Friday that all Chileans would "work tirelessly to find our miners in Chile Chico," adding, "They are not alone."

More than 60 mine-rescue specialists are working around-the-clock to reach the trapped miners, under what the authorities say are extremely difficult circumstances.

Some of the 60 were involved in the dramatic rescue efforts in 2010 after a mine collapse in northern Chileleft 33 workers trapped 2,000 feet (600 meters) below the surface. They were successfully rescued after 69 days below ground.

The National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) has confirmed the presence of water in the Chile Chico mine. It estimates that the trapped men are probably some 800 feet (250 meters) below the surface, in a network of galleries that stretches 6,200 feet (1,900 meters).

Agence France-Presse

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