'Difficult' conditions

Doctors on the scene said they were ready to treat any more survivors that were pulled from the shaft.

"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," Dr He Xiuming, on standby at the mine from a nearby hospital, said.

The coal mine flooded on March 28 after miners digging tunnels broke into an abandoned shaft.

State media said that the shaft flooded with the equivalent of more than 55 Olympic swimming pools of water.

Rescuers and divers were able to partially enter the mine in the early afternoon on Saturday as the water level dropped after days of pumping, but divers described the conditions as "very difficult".

Signs of life

On Friday, tapping sounds were heard coming from within the mine, but no signs of life had been heard since then and hopes of finding survivors had begun to fade.

Early investigations by China's work safety administration found that the mine's managers ignored water leaks from the abandoned mine before the accident.

China's coal mines are the deadliest in the world, despite government efforts to reduce fatalities.

Most accidents are blamed on failure to follow safety rules or lack of required ventilation, fire controls and equipment.