Another 15 days before miners can be rescued

Of the 22 trapped, one is confirmed to have died, while 11 are known to be alive. The status of the other 10 is unknown.

Workers trapped in a gold mine in China since January 10 may have to wait another 15 days before they can be rescued because of a blockage on their intended escape route, officials said.

A total of 22 workers were trapped underground after an explosion at the Hushan mine in Qixia, a major gold-producing region under the administration of Yantai in Shandong Province on the northeast coast.

One is confirmed to have died, while 11 are known to be alive. The status of the other 10 is unknown.

Rescuers were drilling new shafts on Thursday to reach 10 of the men in one section of the mine, more than 600 meters from the entrance, who have been sent food and medical supplies.

Another is believed to be trapped on his own, 100 meters further down in rising waters, but his condition is unknown as he has not been directly reached by the rescue teams above.

The shafts include one 711mm-diameter shaft that rescuers hope to use to bring the survivors to safety.

However, at least another 15 days may be needed to clear obstacles, Gong Haitao, deputy head of Yantai’s publicity department, said at the headquarters of the rescue operation.

A “severe blockage” 350 meters down was much worse than feared, officials said, adding that it was about 100 meters thick and weights some 70 tons.

Thick smog hung over the muddy road leading up to the mine site and a row of ambulances on standby, reducing visibility to a few hundred meters. Police have sealed off the road to the mine, cutting through muddy apple orchards and warehouses, to ensure rescue efforts are not hampered. Health workers in white protective gear took temperatures beside mounded earth and tents as part of COVID-19 precautions.

About 600 people are involved in the rescue, with as many as 25 ambulances waiting at the scene, as well as neurosurgeons, trauma specialists and psychologists.

The rescue headquarters at the site said the dead miner suffered severe head injuries during the explosion and later fell into a coma. Medical personnel managed to deliver medicines to other miners and instructed them to offer treatment, but his condition did not improve.

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