BEIJING, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Rescuers in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province worked Monday to save 22 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine for a week, officials said.
During the weekend, rescuers retrieved the body of a worker who had drowned and managed to bring out three others who were hospitalized in stable condition, China Daily reported.
“There is still hope for other survivors, but that depends on the rescue progress,” Li Xingyuan, a rescue operation spokesman, told China Daily.
The mine, located in the province’s Qitaihe city in Boli County, flooded Tuesday when workers mistakenly drilled into a neighboring deserted mine, causing water from that mine to gush in, the report said.
There were 45 workers in the pit 885 feet underground at the time but 19 of them managed to escape while the other 26 were trapped.
China Daily reported rescue workers were using 13 pumps to remove water from the mine.
Li said the unexpectedly large volume of water underground reflected a faulty pit map provided by the mine operator.
“We cannot estimate when we can pump out enough water to give a realistic chance of a rescue. The situation is changing constantly,” he said.
Rescue workers were trying to send food and medicine to the trapped workers, the report said.
One of the workers rescued Saturday was quoted as saying: “We had nothing to eat, just drank water all the time. Wearing a watch, I told the time to others and that gave us some hope.”
Last week, China’s safety authorities, cracking down of illegal coal mines blamed for a large number of deadly disasters, said they had shut down 1,289 illegal coal mines so far this year.
The death toll from coal mine disasters in the country in the first seven months of 2011 totaled 1,083, down 31 percent from the same period of last year, officials said.