29 miners pulled from flooded coal mine in China

Emergency crews drained a flooded Chinese coal mine and rescued all 29 trapped workers Monday, ending a daylong rescue drama.

State television showed the miners — naked, barefoot and wrapped in white quilts and with their eyes shielded from the light after 24 hours in darkness — being led by medics out of the mine entrance. Crowds of mine workers, reporters and others cheered as the survivors were taken to waiting ambulances.

Some 35 miners were initially trapped Sunday morning when waters from a nearby abandoned mine flooded a shaft in the small, privately owned Batian mine in southwest Sichuan province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. While 13 managed to escape, another seven workers who went into the mine to rescue their colleagues also became trapped, the report said.

A mine inspector who took part in the rescue said that the trapped workers were able to find dry space in the mine about 125 feet (40 meters) below the surface to wait out the rescue, and that fast pumping by emergency teams cleared the way for the rescuers.

“They were trapped down underground just above the leaked water,” said the inspector, Bao Xiqiang, with southern Sichuan’s Work Safety Bureau. “When the water went down to a safe level, the rescuers and miners were able to wade their way out of the shaft.”

Workers pumped water from the mine for more than 10 hours, Bao said. Rescuers then walked down a slope about 525 feet (160 meters) and along a flat tunnel for another 1,800 feet (550 meters) to reach those trapped, he said.

The rescue was rare good news for a coal mining industry that is still the world’s deadliest despite impressive safety improvements in recent years. It contrasted with the difficult rescue efforts under way in New Zealand, where toxic fumes have kept rescuers from entering a coal mine to reach 29 workers three days after an explosion.

China counts on coal to meet nearly 70 percent of its energy needs, and with the economy growing at about a 10 percent rate, demand and prices for coal are high, encouraging mine owners to ramp up production.

The Batian mine was not producing coal at the time of the accident, but work crews were inside the mine preparing to increase annual capacity from 50,000 tons to 60,000 tons, Xinhua reported.

Though most of China’s mining accidents occur in small, illegal mines, Xinhua quoted Lin Shucheng, chief of the provincial work safety bureau, as saying Batian’s operation was legal and fully licensed.
Source: AP

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