A rescue team that included divers on Saturday entered a flooded coal mine shaft in northern China where 153 workers have been trapped for six days. But there was no sign of life in the collapsed mine, according to state media.
AFP - A group of rescuers Saturday entered a flooded mine shaft in China where 153 workers have been trapped for six days but had so far failed to detect any signs of life, state media reported.
The 13 rescuers, including six divers carrying cameras, entered the Wangjialing coal mine in the early afternoon to explore conditions underground before more rescuers would be sent in, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Some of the rescuers returned within hours, describing the situation underground as "complicated".
Rescuers lowered a telephone through a drill pipe hoping to hear voices or other signs of life but there has been nothing since rescuers heard a tapping sound from the pipe on Friday.
At least 3,000 rescuers have been racing against time to pump water out of the vast coal mine in the northern province of Shanxi and reach the missing workers.
"The brothers trapped in the shaft have no food to eat and no quilts to cover themselves. Yes, we are very tired, but that is nothing," rescuer Wang Honglin told Xinhua.
"Our biggest hope is to stand at the shaft entrance and greet our brothers walking out of the pit one by one," he said.
The water level inside the mine has fallen by more than five metres (13 feet) since Sunday, with rescuers draining 2,000 cubic metres of water per hour.
A large scale rescue operation could be launched Sunday at the earliest, Xinhua said, citing a spokesman for the rescuers.
About 280 rescuers would be involved in the mission, with 158 ambulances on standby, the report said.
Authorities had maintained a faint hope that some workers may have survived if they were working on platforms above danger levels, and Friday's news from the mine indicated this might have been the case.
Rescuers had inserted a pipe into the shaft as part of the rescue effort. When they took it out, an iron wire had been attached to it, apparently by one of the trapped, Xinhua quoted a rescue official as saying.
They have sent a bucket down the narrow hole with food provisions, pens, paper and communication equipment, Xinhua said.
The rescue effort comes at the end of what has been a disastrous week for China's notoriously dangerous mining sector.
Altogether, nearly 30 people have died and almost 200 are missing after five separate coal mining accidents in as many days.
Workers' safety is often ignored in China's collieries in the quest for quick profits and the drive to meet surging demand for coal -- the source of about 70 percent of the country's energy.
If the workers in Shanxi are not saved, that accident will be the deadliest in China's coal mines in more than two years.
According to official statistics, 2,631 coal miners were killed last year in China -- or about seven a day -- down by 584 from 2008.
China has made efforts to improve safety standards in mines, levying heavy fines and implementing region-wide mining shut-downs following serious accidents.
But the action has resulted in the under-reporting of accidents, labour rights groups maintain. And deadly accidents still occur in big, state-owned collieries, such as the one in Shanxi where the 153 workers are trapped.
Date created : 2010-04-03