Page last updated at 07:49 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 08:49 UK

Scores rescued from flooded Chinese mine


BBC's Damian Grammaticas: Miners clung to walls "with belts" above water

Dozens of Chinese miners trapped in a flooded pit for more than a week have been rescued and brought to the surface, Chinese state media says.

The Wangjialing mine in Shanxi province flooded after miners broke a wall into an abandoned shaft on 28 March.

State media says so far 114 of the 153 missing miners have been rescued. TV pictures showed survivors being taken to hospitals amid jubilant scenes.

Correspondents say the rescue is rare good news for the industry.

Chinese mines are notorious for fatal accidents.

Some 3,000 people have been working round the clock for eight days to try to pump out water and reach the trapped miners.

Eyes covered

The first survivors were brought to the surface shortly after midnight on Monday (1400 GMT on Sunday).

Damian Grammaticas
Damian Grammaticas, Beijing

This is a country with a very poor mine safety record and this was looking like being one of the worst accidents in recent years. Now there are very relieved local officials pulling men out alive.

But still there are very serious questions being asked because this was meant to be a more modern, more safe mine.

There were warning signs which managers apparently ignored of this possible flood. And there could still be dozens of deaths if the unaccounted for miners are not brought out alive.

A crowd of people outside the entrance of the mine clapped as an initial group of nine miners were carried out one by one.

The workers were placed in waiting ambulances and their eyes covered to prevent damage from the light after spending about a week in darkness.

More and more miners were then brought to the surface, as state television monitored the rescue. By 0615 GMT (0715 BST) a total of 114 miners had been rescued, it said.

Provincial governor Wang Jun said that "two miracles" had occurred.

"The first is that these trapped people have made it through eight days and eight nights - this is the miracle of life. Secondly our rescue plan has been effective - this is a miracle in China's search and rescue history," he told China Central Television.

Liu Qiang, chief medical officer at the Linfen hospital in Shanxi province, said the miners were suffering from low body temperature, severe skin infection from staying in water for such a long period of time and severe dehydration.

He said that some were still in shock from their experiences.

One of the survivors, Li Guoyu, 38, from Henan province in central China, told Xinhua news agency the miners had gone without water because they were worried about drinking the dirty liquid flowing in the tunnel.

Nov 2009: Xinxing mine, Heilongjiang province - 108 dead
Dec 2007: Rui Zhiyuan mine, Shanxi province - 105 dead
Aug 2007: Xintai City, Shandong province - 181 dead
Nov 2005: Dongfeng mine, Heilongjiang - 171 dead
Feb 2005: Sunjiawan mine, Liaoning province - 210 dead
Nov 2004: Chenjiashan mine, Shaanxi province - 166 dead
Sept 2000: Muchonggou mine, Guizhou province - 162 dead
May 1960: Laobaidong mine, Shanxi province - 684 dead

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Beijing says television reports spoke of the survivors attaching themselves by belts to the wall of the mine as waters rushed in.

They hung there for three days until a mine cart drifted by and they got in.

Thousands of rescuers had been helping to pump water from the mine, which had been under construction. Water levels in the pit had dropped 10 metres (30ft) by Sunday, officials said.

Hopes rose on Friday when rescuers heard what sounded like people banging on pipes from within the mine.

A total of 153 people were said to have been trapped underground, but families say this is an underestimate as many more were working in the mine at the time.

Earlier this week, a preliminary investigation found that officials had ignored water leaks prior to the accident.

China, which relies heavily on coal to fuel its economy, has some of the most dangerous mines in the world.

Most mining accidents in China are blamed on failures to follow safety rules.

The government has stepped up efforts to improve safety in the mining industry in recent years, by enforcing regulations and taking measures to close unregulated mines.

According to official figures, 2,631 coal miners died in 1,616 mine accidents in China in 2009, down 18% from the previous year.

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