China miners rescued after week-long ordeal

Twenty-two men pulled from flooded pit after being trapped underground, as search continues for remaining three miners.

    Chinese rescuers have pulled 22 coal miners from their flooded pit after being trapped underground for a week.

    State television showed 19 of the men being brought slowly to the surface on Tuesday, with all apparently in good condition. Three others were rescued over the weekend.

    Hopes for the miners had been revived on Sunday after noises were detected through a 280m pipe that was drilled to allow fresh air into the illegal mine near the northeastern city of Qitaihe.

    The mine had been ordered shut in 2007 but was reopened without permission on August 16, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the provincial bureau of occupational safety.

    Three other miners remain trapped in the mine and one body has been recovered.

    The mine was flooded on August 23 when workers mistakenly drilled into a neighbouring mine that had been filled with water, Xinhua said.

    Of the 45 miners who were in the pit in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang when it flooded, 19 escaped at the time, while four were rescued on Saturday - one of whom later died.

    Xinhua said loud cheers went up when the first men emerged from the mine early on Tuesday.

    "Rescuers are still going all-out to search for the three remaining miners," Xu Guangguo, head of the provincial rescue headquarters, told the agency.

    It was not immediately clear whether the remaining three were still alive.

    On August 24, the government in Boli county, where the mine is located, said it had sacked two top officials for their roles leading up to the disaster, including the county head.

    Dismal record

    China's coal mines, which have a dismal safety record, have been hit by a series of accidents in recent years as demand for energy has spiked.

    News of Tuesday's rescue came as it emerged that six miners died when a mine in southwest China's Sichuan province flooded on Monday, trapping another six.

    China's mines are notoriously deadly, although safety improvements have cut annual fatalities by about one-third from a high of 6,995 in 2002.

    Last year, 2,433 people died in coal mine accidents in China, according to official statistics - a rate of more than six workers per day.

    Labour rights groups, however, say the actual death toll is likely much higher, partly due to under-reporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their economic losses and avoid punishment.

    China's government has repeatedly pledged to make the mining industry safer, but large-scale rescue successes remain relatively rare.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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