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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 August 2007, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Trapped Chinese miners are freed
Rescuers work at the entrance of the state-owned Zhijian mine in Shan County in central China's Henan province, Tuesday, July 31, 2007.
The safety record of Chinese mines is extremely poor
A group of miners trapped by floods at a colliery in central China have now been rescued, state media reports.

The 69 miners were trapped for more than three days after flash floods swamped the Henan province colliery.

The men were brought out one by one, to cheers and applause from a crowd waiting at the mine entrance.

Their rescue is a rare happy ending in China, where the mining industry has a poor safety record, and thousands of miners die in accidents every year.

Catching milk

Many of the men came out of the mine wearing blindfolds to give their eyes time to adjust to daylight after three days in the dark.

Some were carried away on stretchers to a nearby hospital.

Zhengzhou map
"Through our hard efforts over the last 70-odd hours we have saved 69 lives and I'm really very moved," the head of China's work safety bureau, Li Yizhong, was reported as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

The state-owned Zhijian mine lies 200km (120 miles) west of Henan's provincial capital, Zhengzhou.

Floods triggered by heavy rain poured into the mine early on Sunday through an aluminium pit and an old shaft.

Thirty-three people escaped, but the rest were trapped by the water.

The group was able to communicate with rescuers via a fixed telephone line.

Rescuers piped in oxygen, and miners used their helmets to catch milk sent down to them via an 800m-long ventilation pipe as they waited for rescue.

China's mines are among the most dangerous in the world, with operators often ignoring safety legislation in pursuit of greater profits.

About 5,000 deaths are reported every year, but independent groups say the annual death toll is actually much higher.

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