Rescuers draining flooded tunnel in search for trapped Chinese workers

Paramilitary police officers working on a flooded tunnel after 14 workers were trapped in Zhuhai, in China's southern Guangdong province on July 15, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - Hundreds of rescuers were battling Friday (July 16) 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.

The workers were trapped in an underground section of a new highway construction site after it collapsed in the early hours of Thursday morning, Yan Dawu, deputy general manager of the railway group, told reporters Thursday.

At around 3:30 am 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 1,160 metres away from the tunnel's 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 metres, 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.

Paramilitary police officers working on a flooded tunnel after 14 workers were trapped in Zhuhai on July 15, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

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 northwestern Xinjiang region, after flooding cut power underground and disrupted communications.

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