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Nine rescued after 179 hours in flooded Chinese mine

XIANGNING, China — Nine miners were pulled to safety early Monday after spending more than a week trapped in a flooded coal mine in northern China, a rescue that had seemed beyond hope for days before crews heard someone tapping from deep underground.

The first survivor was brought to the surface at 40 minutes past midnight Monday, 179 hours after the Wangjialing mine filled with water. A crowd of rescue workers, miners and security workers outside the entrance of the mine shaft clapped as the miners were carried out.

The nine men were among 153 trapped since March 28 when workers broke a wall into a water-filled abandoned shaft. China Central Television said more miners could still be alive, but did not give any details.

State television showed the miners wrapped in blankets, placed in ambulances and rushed to a hospital where teams of doctors and nurses had been standing by for several days. Reporters who did not belong to state media were prevented from getting close to the site.

As they were taken into the hospital in Hejin city, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the mine, the miners' eyes were covered to shield them from the bright lights. Some were hooked up to intravenous drips.


The official Xinhua News Agency reported that their blood pressure and heart rates were normal after spending nearly 7½ days trapped underground. It quoted one of the survivors, Li Guoyu, 38, from Henan province in central China, as saying they had gone without water because they were worried about drinking the dirty water flowing in the tunnel.

About 3,000 people have worked around the clock using 14 pumps to suck the water out of the mine in Shanxi province.

A glimmer of hope emerged Friday when rescuers heard knocking on a pipe that had been drilled into the mine. But no sounds were heard after that as workers frantically pumped water out and sent divers into the mine to scout conditions.

CCTV did not say how may other survivors there may be. Xinhua reported that swaying lamp lights were seen at the other side of a V-shaped shaft in the mine, indicating people might be there.

CCTV said the bottom of the V-shaped shaft had emerged as the water level fell.

A preliminary investigation last week found that the mine's managers ignored water leaks before the accident, the State Administration of Work Safety said.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest. Accidents killed 2,631 coal miners in China last year, down from 6,995 deaths in 2002, the most dangerous year on record, according to the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.

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