Anxious wait for families of trapped miners

Updated: 2011-07-05 07:17

By Qiu Bo and Yang Jun (China Daily)

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PINGTANG, Guizhou - Getting diarrhea from drinking too much may just have saved Lan Zhiming's life.

The 22-year-old was scheduled to work the same shift as the 23 miners trapped in a coal shaft in Southwest China's Guizhou province. Instead, he was playing online games on Monday as rescuers desperately pumped out floodwater.

Anxious wait for families of trapped miners
Rescuers feed cables into a mine in Guizhou province on Sunday where 23 miners were trapped on Saturday following a flood. The cables will supply electricity for rescue crews at the Niupeng Coal Mine in Pingtang county. [Provided to China Daily]

"I woke up with diarrhea at about 4 am, a few hours before my shift," said Lan, who explained that he later walked off site when mine owner Zhang Jiaqing refused to let him take sick leave.

"After I heard about the accident, I immediately called some of the trapped men's families in my hometown," said the migrant worker from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. "Some cried as soon as they heard the bad news."

Lan and his fellow miners above ground are now anxiously awaiting news of their stranded colleagues.

As of 5 pm on Monday, officials said 110,000 cubic meters of underground water had been pumped from the flooded Niupeng Mine in Pingtang county, bringing the level down by 9.9 meters.

"The rescue operation made a breakthrough in the afternoon, as the water level saw an obvious drop," said Yang Yunsong, deputy director of the county publicity department. By 8 am on Monday, the water level had dropped just 3.4 meters.

According to the emergency rescue headquarters, 37 pumps - two of them high-powered - are working at the entrance of the mine, which collapsed at 9:30 am on Saturday. Four emergency electrical generators and several more high-powered pumps are on standby.

As well as about 1,000 regular rescue workers, Yang said more than 180 specialists in four teams are also on the scene.

"Although 10 meters of water has been drained, it's hard to estimate how much more has to be pumped to reach the trapped miners," said an official in the rescue headquarters who did not want to be identified. He added that draining the floodwater too fast could increase the risk of a further collapse.

At a conference on Sunday, officials blamed heavy rainfall and a malfunction of the drainage system for the accident.

Lei Shifa, 41, who was among eight miners who escaped, said they were about 170 meters underground when a colleague suddenly realized the flooding had blocked their exit.

He recalled that 68-year-old He Deyue ordered the others to gouge on a thin part of the wall to make an opening. "Just when everyone was giving up hope, a hole emerged, but the rising floodwaters were already chest-high on the other side," said Lei. "We ran through the water as fast as we could."

All eight finally emerged from the shaft 30 minutes later, exhausted but unharmed.


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