It will take at least 15 more days to get through a large amount of debris to reach miners who have been trapped since an explosion 11 days ago in a goldmine in eastern China, authorities have said.
The mineshaft is blocked 350 metres (1,000 ft) below the surface by 70 tonnes of debris that extends down another 100 metres, the Yantai city government said. “Based on expert evaluations, the extent of the blockage … is well out of expectation.”
One miner died from head injuries in the explosion, state media said earlier on Thursday. Of the remaining 21, rescuers have established contact with 10, one is reportedly alive in a nearby chamber, and the status of the other 10 is unknown. Two of the survivors are said to be in poor health.
Rescuers have delivered food, medicine and other supplies to 11 and are working to remove debris and improve ventilation. They have been attempting to clear cages and other debris blocking the main shaft while drilling other shafts for communication, ventilation, and possibly to lift workers to the surface. Boring has reached depths of around 700 metres (about 2,000 feet), state media reports said.
Mine managers have been detained for waiting more than 24 hours before reporting the accident, the cause of which has not been announced. The mine in Qizia, Shandong province, was under construction when the explosion happened on 10 January.
Increased supervision has improved safety in China’s mining industry, which used to average 5,000 deaths a year, but demand for coal and precious metals continues to prompt corner-cutting, and two accidents in Chongqing last year killed 39 miners.
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