XIANGNING, China — More than 100 Chinese miners were pulled out alive
Monday after being trapped for over a week in a flooded coal mine,
where some ate sawdust and strapped themselves to the shafts' walls
with their belts to avoid drowning while they slept.
wrapped in blankets, some with their light-sensitive eyes covered but
their feet bare, were hurried to waiting ambulances that sped wailing
to nearby hospitals. One clapped on his stretcher and reached out his
blackened hands to grasp those of rescuers on either side.
in tears hugged each other at the scene, which was broadcast live on
national television. The sudden surge in rescues was a rare piece of
good news for China's mining industry, the deadliest in the world. A
rescue spokesman said 115 survivors had been pulled out as of 4:30 p.m.
local time (0830 GMT; 4:30 a.m. EDT).
"A miracle has finally
happened," Liu Dezheng told reporters Monday morning, after the first
nine miners were taken out shortly after midnight. "We believe that
more miracles will happen."
Rescuers have been pumping water out
of the flooded mine since last Sunday, when workers digging a tunnel
broke into an old shaft filled with water. The first signs of life from
underground came Friday, when tapping could be heard coming up the
pipes. Divers first headed into the tunnels over the weekend but found
high, murky water and emerged empty-handed.
As the water level
continued to drop, rescuers with rubber rafts entered late Sunday and
pulled out the first nine survivors just after midnight. Eleven hours
later, the large wave of rescues began.
The miners had spent
eight days underground and were soaked through. Some had hung from
shaft walls by their belts for days to avoid falling into the water
when asleep. Later, they climbed into a mining cart that floated by.
Qiang, a medical officer involved in the rescue, said the survivors had
hypothermia, severe dehydration and skin infections from being in the
water so long. Some also were in shock and had low blood pressure.
is probably one of the most amazing rescues in the history of mining
anywhere," said David Feickert, a coal mine safety adviser to the
A total of 153 workers had been trapped, and
there was no word Monday afternoon on the status of the 39 miners still
underground. Conditions remained complicated by high murky water.
of the survivors were thrilled. "He called and managed to say my
sister's nickname, 'Xiaomi,' so we know it's really him and that he's
alive," said Long Liming, who said he received a call around midday
from his rescued brother-in-law Fu Ziyang.
A doctor then took
the phone and said Fu had to rest, Long said. "He was trapped
underground for so long, so he's very weak. But we are very relieved to
know that he made it out safely."
Officials said most of the rescued miners were in stable condition, but state television said seven were in serious condition.
a sign of government concerns over possible social unrest, family
members of the trapped miners said they have been kept under close
watch in hotels and are not allowed to leave unless accompanied by
The first rescue early Monday morning had seemed beyond
hope for days before crews finally heard tapping from deep underground
Rescuers then scrambled to understand the complicated
situation underground and send down packages of glucose, milk and
letters of encouragement. One read: "Dear fellow workers, the Party
Central Committee, the State Council and the whole nation have been
concerned for your safety all the time.... You must have confidence and
hold on to the last!"
Some workers appeared to be trapped on
upper platforms of the mine; their access to the entrance of the
V-shaped shaft was blocked by an area swamped with water.
situation underground was a bit more complicated than we predicted,"
Luo Lin, the director of the State Administration for Work Safety, told
It was unclear Monday how deep into the mine the rescued workers had been found.
"The miners in the lowest levels will be in the most extreme danger,"
Feickert said. "Just think of a tall building, with people on different
floors, if that suddenly filled up with water."
China Central Television said one of the newly rescued workers still was holding his mining lamp.
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.