Rescuers are widening a communication shaft in the hope of extracting a group of Chinese gold miners who have been trapped deep underground for 10 days in rising floodwaters, Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said yesterday.
Twenty-two workers became trapped hundreds of meters underground at the Hushan mine near Qixia in eastern China’s Shandong province when an explosion on Jan. 10 sealed the entrance and cut off communications.
Contact has been made with 11 miners at one location 540m below the surface. Another miner — apparently alone — is trapped 100m farther down.
After days without any sign of life, a handwritten note was sent up on a metal wire that rescuers had on Sunday dropped into the mine. In it, the miners pleaded for food and medicine, and warned that water levels were high in the damaged mine.
The whereabouts and condition of the other 10 miners are still unknown.
At least four of the miners are injured, their note said.
“One trapped miner was critically injured in the blast and is currently in a coma,” Song Xicheng (宋西成), deputy head of the rescue team, told CCTV.
Rescuers have already dug at least two “lifeline” channels to send food, medicine, paper, pencils and telephones down to the stricken group.
There are plans for the widest of the shafts, about the size of a maintenance hole, to be broadened to extract the miners once drilling is finished, CCTV said.
The progress of the rescue has been slow because they are drilling through granite, an official said, adding that the extraction could be further complicated by the waterlogged state of the mine.
“There is a lot of water in the shaft that may flow in and pose a danger to the trapped workers,” the official said.
Overnight temperatures in Qixia are set to drop below freezing during the next week.
Currently, the group is recovering strength after supplies reached them, rescuers said.
Several waterproof backup phones were sent down to the trapped miners after they wrote a second note on Tuesday, saying that earlier phones were damaged, Xinhua news agency reported.
Rescue teams lost precious time as it took more than a day for the accident to be reported, China Youth Daily said, citing provincial authorities.
The local Chinese Communist Party secretary and the Qixia mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay, and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.
The hashtag “Shandong trapped miners sent another note” received more than 170 million views on the Sina Weibo social network by yesterday morning, as Chinese began to take notice of the extraordinary rescue effort.
Mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record and regulations are often weakly enforced.
Last month, 23 workers died after being trapped underground in the southwestern city of Chongqing, just months after 16 others died from carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped underground at another coal mine in the city.
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