Four rescued 36 days after mine collapse

One of the four workers, who had been trapped underground for 36 days, being lifted from a collapsed gypsum mine in Pingyi, Shandong province, last Friday. The four were among 29 trapped when the mine collapsed on Dec 25. Thirteen miners are still mi
One of the four workers, who had been trapped underground for 36 days, being lifted from a collapsed gypsum mine in Pingyi, Shandong province, last Friday. The four were among 29 trapped when the mine collapsed on Dec 25. Thirteen miners are still missing.PHOTO: REUTERS

They were among 29 trapped underground in Shandong cave-in; one killed, 13 still missing

SHANGHAI • Four miners trapped underground for 36 days in a collapsed Chinese gypsum mine have been pulled out, a "miracle" rescue in a country with a poor track record on industrial accidents.

The final operation to save the men trapped more than 200m underground took two hours as they were hauled up to the surface one by one late last Friday in a rescue "capsule", according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The four were among 29 trapped when the mine collapsed on Dec 25. But the rescue was marred as a local government official said there had been no contact with 13 other missing miners.

"It is a miracle," said Weibo microblog user Zeng Kunyuan. Weibo is China's equivalent of Twitter.

"I hope they can sit at the dinner table on the eve of Spring Festival," the posting said, referring to the upcoming Chinese New Year when people return home to have a traditional meal with their families.

Dramatic footage released by CCTV showed rescue crews applauding as the men were brought above ground in China's eastern province of Shandong.

Of the 29 that were trapped, one has been found dead and 11 were rescued the day after the accident. There has been no contact with the remaining 13, however.

"We used life detection equipment to search for them. Unfortunately, we have not heard from those 13 missing miners," said Mr Zhang Shuping, mayor of Linyi city which governs the area.

The four rescued men were shown being wrapped in military blankets, blindfolded to protect their eyes and put into ambulances. They were named by state media as Mr Zhao Zhicheng, aged 50, Mr Li Qiusheng, 39, Mr Guan Qingji, 58, and Mr Hua Mingxi, 36.

Government officials said this marked China's first rescue of its kind, accomplished by drilling through rock with a large drill head.

The incident was the latest deadly accident in a country where safety rules are often flouted to cut costs. Despite the jubilation over the rescue, some online postings called for accountability over the accident.

"Feel so proud of this? Shouldn't it be time to hold someone accountable?" said one posting.

The mine owner committed suicide by drowning himself at the scene soon after the collapse, Xinhua reported previously.

The cause of the collapse is under investigation, but industrial safety regulations are often evaded in China and corruption enables bosses to pursue profits at the cost of worker safety.

Four officials in Pingyi county, where the mine is located, including the county's party chief and head of government, were removed from their posts in the wake of the incident.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'Four rescued 36 days after mine collapse'. Print Edition | Subscribe