Clock’s ticking as rescuers try to reach 153 trapped miners
Crews pump out water, but worry about gases, too
XIANGNING, China — Rescuers pumped water from a flooded mine where time is running out for 153 trapped workers. Their efforts stretched into a second day, with no communication from those stuck deep.
Some 1,000 workers were rotating on shifts to try to drain enough water to reach the miners, but the rescue effort could take days.
It was unclear whether anyone was alive in the shafts, some of which extend a half-mile into the earth.
The accident could be one of the worst mining disasters in recent years if rescue efforts fail.
“Their situation until now is still unknown, so that is making everyone very worried,’’ said Liu Dezheng, a chief engineer with the work safety bureau in northern China’s Shanxi Province.
Officials have yet to declare the cause of the accident but said the flood at the state-owned Wangjialing coal mine may have started Sunday afternoon when workers dug into a network of old, water-filled shafts.
Such derelict tunnels are posing new risks to miners across China even as the country improves safety in its notoriously hazardous mines, where accidents kill thousands each year.
China’s State Administration of Work Safety said 261 workers were inside the mine when it flooded, and 108 escaped or were rescued.
“We can’t get in touch with the people down there,’’ said miner Li Jianhong, 33, who was helping move pipes to suck water from the shaft. “If they haven’t drowned yet, they might have suffocated from a lack of oxygen.’’
He was just about to head into the mine for his shift Sunday when he heard that “something happened’’ underground. As he and his colleagues gathered for a meeting, they received a call from some of the trapped miners. “We just received one phone call from them and after that there was no more contact.’’
Liu warned any rescue was still days away.
State television said the workers were trapped in nine different places in the mine.
Authorities were not only worried about the flood. Gases from the abandoned shafts may have flowed into the mine, bringing new dangers.