BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese rescuers pulled 11 gold miners to safety on Sunday with most of them in good condition after 14 days trapped underground after an explosion, but 10 colleagues were still unaccounted for, state media reported.
Television footage showed the first miner as he was brought to the surface in the morning, a black blindfold shielding his eyes from daylight as he was lifted out of a shaft.
The miner was extremely weak, state broadcaster CCTV reported on its Weibo site. Rescue workers wrapped the barely responsive man in a blanket and took him to hospital by ambulance.
Over the next few hours, 10 miners from a different section of the mine, who had been getting food and medical supplies down a shaft from rescue workers last week, were brought out in batches.
“We made a breakthrough this morning,” chief engineer at the rescue centre, Xiao Wenru, told the Xinhua news agency.
“After clearing these broken, powdery pieces, we found that there were cavities underneath … our progress accelerated.”
Officials had said on Thursday it could take another two weeks to drill a rescue shaft through blockages to reach the group of 10.
One of the men brought to the surface was injured but several were shown walking, supported by rescue workers and wearing black cloth over their eyes, before being taken away by ambulance.
They were in good physical condition and had been getting normal food since Saturday, after several days of living off nutrient solutions, the Xinhua news agency said.
China’s mines are among the world’s deadliest. It recorded 573 mine-related deaths in 2020, according to the National Mine Safety Administration.
The Jan. 10 explosion in the Hushan mine in Qixia, a major gold-producing region under the administration of Yantai in coastal Shandong province, trapped 22 workers about 600 metres (2,000 feet) underground.
One miner is known to have died. Ten are unaccounted for.
More than 600 rescuers have been on the site working to reach the men.
The workers’ escape is similar to the rescue of 33 miners trapped in the San Jose copper-gold mine in Chile for more than 69 days in 2010.
The Chilean miners, who were caught in a cave-in, survived on rations of food and water for 17 days until rescue crews gave them a lifeline by drilling a tiny hole into the chamber where they had taken refuge.
Weeks later, a larger hole was drilled and the miners were pulled to the surface as a captivated global audience watched.
Interactive graphic of mine rescue: https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-ACCIDENT/MINE/xklvylmnbpg/index.html
(Graphic: Explosion in a gold mine in northern China’s Shandong province https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-ACCIDENT/MINE/yxmpjynakvr/CHINA-MINE.jpg)
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Tom Hogue, Robert Birsel and Wiliam Mallard)