Rescuers prepare for search in flooded China mine
Associated Press Writer
XIANGNING, China (AP) – Rescue workers set up equipment and prepared Sunday to mount an operation to try to find survivors among 153 trapped miners in a northern China, saying they have not given up hope one week after the mine flooded.
But no decisions have been made yet on a next step after a dive team entered the mine Saturday and called the situation underground “very difficult,” with black, murky water complicating efforts to reach sites where rescuers hope miners have survived.
No further signs of life have been detected after apparent tapping was heard Friday, said Wen Changjin, an official with the news center set up at the mine in the northern province of Shanxi.
Wen said the next step in the rescue plan had not been decided. Four rescue teams of about 10 people each received a briefing from provincial Gov. Wang Jun, who went over a map with them and told them communication was important.
“We are waiting further instructions,” said one of the team leaders, Song Danin. “We will go as far and as deep as we can.”
The area around the shaft entrance of the Wangjialing mine was cleared of debris and pipes, in apparent preparation for a rescue operation.
It is not known how much water is still in the mine. About 3,000 people have been working around the clock to pump out water that poured in when miners digging tunnels broke into an abandoned shaft on March 28.
“All this material is meant for rescuing the people stuck underground. The blankets will cover them when they come out because they will be very cold,” said rescue worker Wei Yandong, sitting near carts full of foldable stretchers and blankets.
“There are people down there and some of them must still be alive,”
Experts said the work to reach the miners could last days and their survival depended on decent air to breathe and clean water to drink.
Television footage on Friday afternoon showed rescuers tapping on pipes with a wrench, then cheering and jumping after hearing a response – the first sign of life since the mine flooded. They lowered pens and paper, along with packs containing glucose and milk, down metal pipes into the mine.
But nothing has been heard since then, Wen said.
The 153 workers were believed to be trapped on nine platforms in the mine, which was flooded with equal to more than 55 Olympic swimming pools, state media have said. Rescuers said four platforms were not totally submerged.
About two dozen ambulances were parked on the road leading into the mine site, and doctors and nurses in white coats stood by.
“The main thing we are prepared to treat is exhaustion because they have been trapped for so long with no support or nutrition, no sunlight, air or water,” said Dr. He Xiuming, part of a medical team of about two dozen sent from a nearby hospital.
“I think we should still believe in the miracle of life. We have seen it in the Sichuan earthquake, the Indonesian tsunami, so we should try to be positive,” He said.
A preliminary investigation found that the mine’s managers ignored water leaks from the abandoned mine before the accident, the State Administration of Work Safety said.
China’s coal mines are the world’s deadliest. Accidents killed 2,631 coal miners in China last year, down from 6,995 deaths in 2002, the most dangerous year on record, according to the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.
Associated Press researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.
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