The 69 miners trapped in a flooded coal mine in Central China's Henan Province were "alive and in a stable emotional state", the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said yesterday.
Heavy rain that started on Saturday night flooded the Zhijian mine in Shanxian County, about 200 km west of Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, at about 8:40 am Sunday. Of the 102 miners working underground, just 33 managed to escape.
Earlier reports that said 70 miners were trapped were due to a miscalculation at the site, the Xinhua News Agency said.
"The trapped miners have been in telephone contact with people above ground and are in a safe place and in a stable emotional state," a statement on the SAWS website said yesterday.
However, continuous heavy rains have hampered rescue efforts, with none of the miners being freed at press time yesterday.
The latest downpour yesterday morning triggered landslides on both sides of the mountain road leading to the mine. In addition, rain and heavy fog have reduced visibility and delayed two trucks carrying relief materials, Xinhua said.
"The rescue operation is progressing in an orderly way and the first task is to try to pump out the water," a member of the rescue team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
About 300 soldiers have stemmed the flow of water from a disused pit nearby.
About 4,000 cu m of water are estimated to have flooded some 600 m of tunnels in the pit. The huge amount of silt in the tunnels has slowed the pumping work, a rescue worker said.
Rescuers have been told to use the ground ventilation system to supply air and drill holes from the ground to the place where the miners are trapped to ensure they get enough oxygen.
Experts have also been discussing the possibility of sending water and food via ventilation pipes. Four ambulances are standing by, ready to provide first aid.
Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday urged rescue teams to use all means to save the trapped miners.
Li Yizhong, head of the SAWS; Xu Guangchun, Party secretary of Henan; and Governor Li Chengyu, have arrived at the site to oversee the rescue operation.
The State-owned mine was built in 1958. It is designed to produce 210,000 tons a year but its actual annual output is 300,000 tons, Xinhua said.
Local authorities in Shanxi Province, a major coal production base in China, said yesterday that at least nine people were killed in a colliery accident in the province, which was concealed for nearly a month.
The Liziping Coal Mine, in Xiangning County, Linfen, was flooded on July 5, but managers failed to inform the work safety authorities, a spokesman with the Shanxi provincial work safety administration said.
The administration learned of the accident after an anonymous tip-off and immediately started an investigation into the accident, he said.
Meanwhile, six people have died, 10 others are missing and more than 1 million have been affected by a fresh round of flooding that has hit Northwest China's Shaanxi Province and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the past three days.
Floods, landslides and mudflows triggered by torrential rains had killed 652 people as of Sunday, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said yesterday.
The floods, mainly in South and East China, have caused 52.5 billion yuan (US$6.9 billion) in direct economic losses, it said.
(China Daily July 31, 2007)