BEIJING – Rescuers on Sunday pulled to safety four of about a dozen miners trapped underground for more than three days in a flooded coal mine pit in central China.
A coal mine safety bureau official in central Hunan province said four miners were lifted to the ground early Sunday in Leiyang city. The rescue of the fourth miner was shown live on state broadcaster CCTV's news channel. Rescuers in orange suits and helmets lifted out the man on a stretcher past an applauding crowd of workers and rescuers.
Sixteen miners were trapped by flooding on Wednesday and 11 of them were confirmed alive on Saturday, said the official who refused to give his name as is customary.
Many of the miners still underground were injured and receiving first aid treatment underground from medical personnel who had entered the pit with stretchers and equipment, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The flood in the coal mine occurred when 40 miners were working underground, and two dozen escaped, Xinhua said.
But managers of the mine failed to report the accident in the required time, causing rescue efforts to be delayed at least 12 hours, the agency reported. Mine managers often do so to buy time and avoid punishment by either rescuing miners themselves or covering up the accident.
The survivors have been sent to hospital while the mine owner, Liu Yaping, is under police custody, Xinhua said.
Mine floods usually occur when miners drill through to an abandoned shaft that has been allowed to fill with water. Along with gas explosions and cave-ins, they make China's coal mines the world's deadliest, although the death rate has fallen.
Safety improvements have cut annual fatalities by about one-third from a high of 6,995 in 2002. That improvement has come despite a tripling in the output of coal that generates most of China's electrical power.
Technological advances, better training and the closing of the most dangerous, small-scale mining operations have also made rescues more successful, even after several days.
In April 2010, 115 miners were pulled from a flooded mine in the northern province of Shanxi after more than a week underground. The miners survived by eating sawdust, tree bark, paper and even coal. Some strapped themselves to the walls of the shafts with their belts to avoid drowning while they slept.