'Miracle' as 115 miners rescued from floods trap
Published 06/04/2010 | 05:00
AFTER eight days and nights trapped in the darkness of a flooded mine in northwest China, 115 men have been pulled out alive in what officials described as nothing less than a miracle.
Some were strong enough to walk almost unaided to the lifts that brought them out of the shafts where they had been entombed since water gushed through the colliery on March 28. One miner even clapped his coaldust-coated hands together as he was brought out on a stretcher and gripped the hands of rescuers and officials.
Others, suffering from hypothermia, dehydration and infections, were rushed to a line of ambulances.
"This is probably one of the most amazing rescues in the history of mining anywhere," David Feickert, a coalmine safety adviser to the Chinese government said. "It is a miracle," said Luo Lin, head of the State Administration of Work Safety.
As medics took care of those who had been freed, rescue workers pressed on with scouring the flooded tunnels of the Wangjialing mine in search of 38 men still missing hundreds of metres below the surface.
More than 5,000 rescuers have worked around the clock since the accident, pumping millions of gallons of water into the mine so rescue teams could enter. The teams, accompanied by divers, began descending into the mine on Friday. Late on Sunday they were led to the first survivors by the sound of tapping on pipes.
One rescuer said he suddenly saw a light in the distance. He and several colleagues raced along the shaft -- the deepest in the pit -- to find nine men huddled on a working platform. These were the first to be brought out early yesterday. "They were very smart," said Chen Yongsheng, a rescuer. "Several gathered together and they turned on their lamps in rotation to try to save the batteries until they could be found. When we rescued them they still had plenty of power."
One man described how the floodwaters had smashed through the tunnels, sweeping him and his colleagues away. He was carried along a shaft until his belt snagged on a protrusion. For three days and nights he remained hanging there, even managing to catch some sleep. When a mining cart floated by, he and eight colleagues who had also hooked themselves to the wall clambered in and floated along. They ate the bark from the shaft's supports and drank the cold, filthy water.
Eventually the cart hit a working platform and the nine men took refuge there. When he reached the surface Li Guoyu, of Henan province, borrowed a mobile phone to call his family. He said to his wife: "I'm good. How are you and the kid?"
Most survivors were said to be doing well but seven were said to be in a serious condition.
They became trapped when they dug into an older mine that had been shut and filled with water. The work safety watchdog has blamed the accident on lax standards by the mine owner, the state-owned Huajin Coking Coal Company.(©The Times London)