Over 110 rescued from China mine

The feet of a rescued miner from the flooded Wangjialing Coal Mine are seen as he is carried into a hospital to receive medical treatment in Hejin, northern China's Shanxi province. (Reuters)

More than 110 workers were pulled out of a Chinese coal mine more than a week after being trapped by flooding, in what has been hailed as a miracle rescue in the notoriously dangerous industry.
So far, 114 workers have been brought out alive from the half-built Wangjialing mine in Shanxi province and taken to hospital for treatment, state television and the Xinhua news agency reported.
The news from Shanxi, where 153 workers became trapped when the state-owned mine flooded on March 28, was a rare bright spot for an industry known for its poor safety records and more than 2,600 deaths last year.
"How fantastic to be on ground again," Xinhua quoted one 27-year-old survivor as saying.
Shanxi governor Wang Jun told China Central Television he was excited about the "two miracles" after the accident, which authorities blamed on lax safety standards at the mine.
"The first is that these trapped people have made it through eight days and eight nights -- this is the miracle of life. Secondly our rescue plan has been effective - this is a miracle in China's search and rescue history," he said.
CCTV showed survivors being brought out of the mine pit one after another, strapped to stretchers and wrapped in green blankets. Towels covered their eyes and blackened faces to protect them from lights after so long underground.
Groups of rescue workers wearing blue and orange jumpsuits loaded them into scores of awaiting ambulances, while medical personnel dressed in white administered intravenous drips and oxygen.
Many survivors were dehydrated as they had refused to drink the water in the pit during their ordeal, fearing contamination, CCTV said. Doctors also feared gas poisoning from the bad air in the shaft, it said.
Xinhua quoted Wang as saying the work to find the remaining workers missing in the massive pit in China's coal producing heartland was "challenging".
The Beijing News quoted rescue workers as saying they had seen bodies in the mine, but no details were given.
"I have not slept for several days," black-faced rescuer Wei Fusheng told state television as he wept with joy. "Our efforts have not been in vain."
Footage of the rescue scenes played throughout the day as China marked its annual "grave sweeping day," a national holiday to mourn the dead.
Thousands of people lined the road from the mine, applauding as ambulances carrying the first survivors rushed past, Xinhua said.
"I have two daughters and a son. I had to do mining work to earn money for them," said a 45-year-old survivor being treated in hospital.
Medical workers found that the vital signs of most of the survivors taken to hospital were "basically stable," state television said, citing hospital officials in the city of Hejin, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the mine.
At least 3,000 rescuers had been racing against time to pump water out of the mine. Rescuers only entered the shaft at the weekend but said there was more water than anticipated.
On Sunday night, a team of 100 rescue workers descended into the mine again and discovered the first nine survivors two hours later, before a second team was sent in. Up to 300 rescuers were in the pit by mid-morning Monday.
The accident occurred when workers apparently dug into an older adjacent mine that had been shut down and filled with water, press reports have said.
The work safety watchdog blamed the accident on the mine owner, the Huajin Coking Coal Company, which failed to heed repeated warnings that water was accumulating in the pit days before the disaster.
Workers had also been ordered to step up the pace of work in order to ensure that coal production began by October this year, the safety watchdog said.
Safety is often ignored in China's collieries in the quest for quick profits and the drive to meet surging demand for coal -- the source of about 70 percent of the country's energy.
Last week was a disastrous for China's mining sector, with five separate accidents from the far-western Xinjiang region to the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. A total of 37 people were killed and 70 remain missing.
According to official statistics, 2,631 coal miners were killed last year in China - or about seven a day. In the deadliest recent disaster, 172 workers died in a mine flood in the eastern province of Shandong in August 2007.

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