Dozens of miners rescued in China
Efforts continue at flooded shaft
XIANGNING, China — Dozens of Chinese miners were pulled out alive today after being trapped for more than a week in a flooded coal mine, sparking cheers among the hundreds of rescue workers who had raced to save them and almost given up hope.
A live state television broadcast counted off the number of survivors — up to 55 at press time — as miners wrapped in blankets were hurried to ambulances that sped to nearby hospitals.
State television said rescuers were preparing to pull as many as 70 to 80 miners out of the mine in northern Shanxi Province, though conditions underground remained complicated. A total of 153 workers had been trapped since March 28.
”A miracle has finally happened,” a rescue headquarters spokesman, Liu Dezheng, told reporters this morning.
The first rescue — of nine men — early today had seemed beyond hope for days before crews heard tapping from deep underground Friday.
Some of the soaked miners had hung from shaft walls by their belts for days. Hundreds of rescuers were underground, with hopes that glimpses of swinging lights and new tapping sounds meant that even more survivors could be found.
Liu said the first group of nine rescued miners, who were pulled out shortly after midnight in China, were in stable condition.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency said all nine were conscious and could say their name and hometown, but their bodies had suffered from being soaked for so long. Television footage showed at least one miner was brought out barefoot.
China Central Television said some miners managed to attach themselves to a wall with their belts when the water rushed in, and they hung there for three days before getting into a mining cart that floated by.
The miners had been trapped since March 28 when workers digging tunnels broke into a water-filled abandoned shaft.
Before rescuers heard tapping noises from below Friday, they had feared this would be China’s deadliest mine disaster in more than two years.
Xinhua quoted one of the survivors, Li Guoyu, 38, from Henan Province in central China, saying they had gone without water because they were worried about drinking the dirty water flowing in the tunnel.
Reporters who did not belong to Chinese state media were prevented from getting close to the site.
A preliminary investigation last week found that the mine’s managers ignored water leaks before the accident, the State Administration of Work Safety said.
China’s coal mines are the world’s deadliest. Accidents killed 2,631 coal miners in China last year, down from 6,995 deaths in 2002, the most dangerous year on record, according to the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.
Survival of trapped miners depends on whether they have decent air to breathe and clean water to drink. In the Shanxi Province disaster, rescuers lowered pens and paper, along with packs containing glucose and milk, down metal pipes into the mine on Friday, but nothing was heard from the pit until today.