BEIJING – Eleven workers trapped for two weeks inside a Chinese gold mine were safely brought to the surface on Sunday, a landmark achievement for an industry long devastated by disasters and high death tolls.
The state broadcaster CCTV showed that workers were pulled one by one in baskets on Sunday afternoon, their eyes protected to protect them after so many days in the dark.
Some brought their hands together in gratitude, and many seemed almost too weak to stand. They were quickly covered in coats in the middle of freezing temperatures and filled in ambulances.
Hundreds of rescue workers and officials stood under the attention and applauded as the workers were brought up from the mine in Qixia, a jurisdiction under Yantai in the eastern coastal province of Shandong.
A worker was reported to have died of a head wound after the explosion that deposited large amounts of rubble in the shaft on January 1
The fate of 10 others who were underground at the time is unknown. Authorities have detained mine managers for delayed reporting of the accident.
The cause of the accident is under investigation, but the explosion was large enough to release 70 tons of dirt that blocked the shaft, deactivated elevators and trapped workers underground.
Rescuers drilled parallel shafts to send food and nutrients down and eventually bring the survivors up, 10 of whom had been in a lower chamber and one in a separate area slightly closer to the surface.
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The official China Daily newspaper said on its website that seven of the workers were able to go to ambulances alone.
Such lengthy and expensive rescue efforts are relatively new in China’s mining sector, which averages 5,000 deaths a year. Increased supervision has improved safety, although the demand for coal and precious metals continues to provide rapid corner cutting.
A new crash was ordered after two accidents in mountainous southwestern Chongqing last year killed 39 miners.