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WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Fifty-four miners were trapped underground in one of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan's Canadian potash mines as of Thursday afternoon, but the company said the workers were safe and it expected to rescue them soon.
Fire started around 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday in a water truck inside Potash Corp's Allan, Saskatchewan mine, said company spokesman Bill Johnson. Ninety-six workers were sent to underground refuge stations while a crew entered the mine and extinguished the fire.
The crew cleared the air of smoke enough to get nearly half of the workers out of the mine late Wednesday night. But 54 workers remained in refuge stations on the east side of the mine where smoke is still in the air.
Some fans were damaged in the fire, resulting in a longer process to clear smoke.
"It's our hope that we'll get (the trapped miners) up very shortly, but we're certainly being very cautious in waiting until we're sure the air quality is good enough to move everyone," Johnson said.
The mine stopped production when the fire started. The company will assess the situation after workers are rescued before deciding when to re-start mining, he said.
Potash Corp is the world's second-biggest producer of potash, which is mainly used to fertilize crops. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Dan Grebler)