Rescuers drain flooded tunnel in search of trapped Chinese workers

Rescuers working on Thursday to stop flooding in a tunnel where 14 workers were trapped, in Zhuhai, in China's southern Guangdong province. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Rescuers working on Thursday to stop flooding in a tunnel where 14 workers were trapped, in Zhuhai, in China's southern Guangdong province. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • Hundreds of rescuers were battling yesterday to reach 14 construction workers trapped in a flooded tunnel in China, as the search entered its second day.

Pump trucks channelled water out of the flooded highway tunnel, which runs under a reservoir, in southern Zhuhai city near Hong Kong as over a thousand rescuers raced to locate the workers.

They were trapped in an underground section of a new highway construction site after it collapsed in the early hours of Thursday morning, Mr Yan Dawu, deputy general manager of the railway group which is building the tunnel, told reporters on Thursday.

At around 3.30am, workers in the tunnel heard an "abnormal noise" and decided to evacuate, Mr Yan said, but water began flooding in before everyone could get out.

They are believed to be stranded some 1,160m away from the tunnel entrance. "We feel deeply guilty and blame ourselves for this construction accident," Mr Yan said.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by the large influx of water at the tunnel face.

Five mobile drainage pump trucks are hauling out an hourly volume of 15,400 cubic m, and the city's vice-mayor said the point of flooding has been blocked.

Another 20 pump trucks are on standby in the surrounding area, he said.

The construction is part of an urban plan to build new highways in the city connecting with the enormous bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, according to the local government website.

In March, two workers were killed in a collapse at a different section of the highway, local media reported.

Industrial accidents are common in China due to weak safety standards and corruption among officials tasked with enforcing them.

Also on Thursday, unrelated flooding in a mine in northern China trapped five people underground, according to state TV.

In January, a group of miners were trapped underground for about two weeks in the eastern Shandong province.

Several months later, 21 workers were stranded in another mine in the north-western Xinjiang region, after flooding cut power underground and disrupted communications.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2021, with the headline 'Rescuers drain flooded tunnel in search of trapped Chinese workers'. Subscribe