Chinese rescuers yesterday drilled deep into the ground in an increasingly desperate bid to save 21 miners trapped for almost two weeks, with one confirmed dead and still no signs of life from more than half of the missing workers, state media reported.
Twenty-two workers were entombed hundreds of meters underground at the Hushan mine near Qixia in eastern China’s Shandong Province after a Jan. 10 explosion sealed the entrance and cut off communications.
Contact has been established with one group of miners, although one, seriously injured in the initial explosion, was confirmed dead late on Wednesday.
Another is believed to be trapped on his own, 100m further down in rising waters, but his condition is unknown as he has not been directly reached by the rescue teams above.
The second group of 11 miners had also yet to be contacted, despite rescuers’ efforts.
“They have also been lowering life detectors and nutrient solutions to other sections to locate the other missing miners, but continued to receive no life signs,” Xinhua news agency reported.
Rescuers on Sunday made contact with a first group of 11 miners at a site about 580m below the surface.
Emergency responders have drilled two “lifeline” channels to deliver food and medicine, and installed a telephone line, while trying to widen a shaft to eventually allow the miners to be extracted.
The workers said they were trapped by “two underground explosions” in the mine, but details are still being confirmed, the China Daily reported yesterday.
There are plans for the widest of the shafts, about the size of a maintenance hole cover, to be broadened enough to extract the miners once drilling is finished, Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television said on Wednesday.
The progress of the rescue has been slow because they are drilling through granite, officials have said, while the extraction could be further complicated by the waterlogged state of the mine.
Rescue teams initially lost precious time as it took more than a day for the incident to be reported.
The local Chinese Communist Party secretary and the mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay, and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.
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 stuck underground in the southwestern city of Chongqing.
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