Rescue teams were poised Wednesday night to enter the West Virginia mine to see if anyone survived an explosion that killed 24 miners, officials said.
At least six rescue teams were in gear and waiting for word that the mine, which earlier in the day had been filled with deadly gases, was safe to enter, a federal official said.
Officials pleaded for patience from loved ones and colleagues clinging to hope of a subterranean miracle.
It was also revealed Wednesday that Massey Energy was cited twice for safety violations at the mine on Monday - the day it blew up. One of the violations was not having adequate maps of escape routes.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin acknowledged the odds of finding anyone alive were getting longer by the minute. "We've been working against long odds from day one," Manchin said.
Workers drilled five 1,100-foot holes to ventilate the damaged mineshaft. Air tests in the mine showed a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane gases.