Weeklong ordeal over for 19 trapped miners

Source: Xinhua/Shanghai Daily  |   2011-8-31  |     NEWSPAPER EDITION

The story appears on Page A3
Aug 31, 2011

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Doctors move one of the 19 workers pulled out alive yesterday after almost a week trapped by flooding at a coal mine as he arrives at a hospital in northeast China's Qitaihe City. Twenty-six miners were trapped when water poured into a shaft on August 23 from an adjacent, flooded mine. Three were pulled out alive and one body was recovered on Saturday. The 19 men rescued yesterday survived by drinking water dripping from the ceiling. A search is under way for the remaining three miners still trapped.

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NINETEEN coal miners were pulled alive from a flooded pit in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province yesterday after being trapped underground for almost a week, bringing the total number of rescued miners to 22.

A search is ongoing for three miners still missing.

The Hengtai Coal Mine was flooded at around noon on August 23 when miners mistakenly drilled into a neighboring flooded mine. Twenty-six miners were trapped, 19 managed to escape.

Three of the trapped miners were rescued on Saturday. The body of one who was killed was retrieved the next day.

"Rescuers are still going all out to search for the three remaining miners. We will never give up," said Xu Guangguo, head of the provincial rescue headquarters and deputy governor of Heilongjiang Province.

The first of the 19 miners rescued yesterday was brought above ground at about 7am to cheers and applause.

"I hope you will recover soon," Wang Xiankui, governor of Heilongjiang Province, told the miner. "We are doing everything we can to save your colleagues."

When the second miner was pulled out, Wang asked: "What's your name?" The miner replied loudly: "Liu Mingxiang. Thank you."

The 19 miners are being treated in a local hospital and are all in a stable condition.

"When the flood occurred, these 19 miners happened to be at a high position underground, which helped them to survive," said Sun Yongkui, an expert on mine disaster rescue operations and general manager of the Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Group Co.

"During the 165 hours they spent underground, they managed to keep their mining lamps on continuously," he said.

"Water had been dripping from the rock ceiling above their heads, which also helped them to survive," he said.

"In addition, the 278-meter-deep hole that we drilled to send oxygen to them was not far from their position."

The mine, in Boli County in the city of Qitaihe, is one of many that have been operating illegally in recent years, despite government efforts to shut down small, outdated mines.

The provincial government ordered the mine to stop production in 2007.

However, the owner restarted production without permission on August 16, according to the local work safety bureau.

Seven officials have been detained over the mine's operation, and the head of Boli County and his deputy have been dismissed.

A rescue operation in July after two miners were trapped for 188 hours in a collapsed coal mine in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region had given hope to the rescuers and anxious relatives of the trapped miners in Qitaihe.

And there was a similar rescue last year after 115 workers became trapped in a flooded mine in north China's Shanxi Province.

The miners spent 179 hours in the mine.

Meanwhile, six miners died and six others remain trapped underground after a coal mine flooded in southwest China's Sichuan Province, local authorities said yesterday.

The flood occurred around 10am on Monday, when 30 miners were working underground in the Zengjiagou Coal Mine in the city of Dazhou.

Eighteen miners managed to escape, a spokesman for the provincial work safety bureau said.

Rescuers have retrieved six bodies and are working to reach the remaining miners, he said.

The manager of the coal mine is in police custody.

Local authorities are investigating the cause of the accident, he added.

China's mines are notoriously deadly, although safety improvements have cut annual fatalities by about a third from a high of 6,995 in 2002. That improvement has come despite a tripling in the output of coal that generates most of China's electrical power.

Technological advances, better training and the closing of the most dangerous, small-scale mining operations have also made rescues more successful, even after several days.

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