Rescuers in China have freed 11 miners who were trapped 600m underground, state media report.
TV footage showed the first miner, who was blindfolded to protect his eyes from the light, being lifted out as emergency workers cheered. They were part of a group that had previously made contact with rescue workers, and been sent food and supplies. The entrance tunnel to the Hushan gold mine in Shandong province collapsed after an explosion on 10 January. A total of 22 miners were trapped in the blast, the cause of which is unknown. At least one died, and it is still not clear if the remaining 10 are alive underground. The first miner was brought to the surface on Sunday morning. He was blindfolded to protect his eyes from the light and was immediately taken to hospital for treatment, with his condition described as “extremely weak”. About an hour after his rescue, eight more miners were brought out from a different section of the mine. CCTV said one of the miners among this group was injured. Several others were seen walking by themselves, supported by rescue workers, before being transported to hospital. Rescue efforts have been sped up significantly, as a tunnel that was being bored out to reach the known trapped miners was expected to take weeks to dig. This first man to be rescued had been trapped in a different part of the gold mine to the main group of 10 who have been receiving food and medicine for days. The group told rescuers they had established communication with a lone miner about 100m below them, but had since lost touch with him. Authorities have been unable to communicate with 10 other miners who remain missing.
How did they get trapped?
The entry into the mine was severely damaged and communication was cut off by unexplained explosion. For a week, there was no sign of life. Then, last Sunday, rescuers felt a pull on one of the ropes they were lowering into small shafts leading down into the dark. A paper note was then sent up on a rope from a group of 12 surviving miners – 11 trapped in one place and a 12th trapped further below. Since then, the contact with the 12th miner has been lost, while one of the group of 11, who had fallen into a coma after sustaining a head wound in the explosion, was on Thursday confirmed dead.
In September, 16 workers were killed at another mine on the outskirts of Chongqing, also due to carbon monoxide. In December 2019, an explosion at a coal mine in Guizhou province, south-west China, killed at least 14 people.
How have the miners survived this long?
The survivors have been trapped in the dark some 600m (2,000ft) underground. They are in regular contact with the rescue teams. A communication line has been established and food and medicine can be lowered to them through a narrow shaft. While they’ve been receiving porridge and nutritional liquids, the miners a few days ago asked for a traditional meal of sausages.