BEIJING: Chinese rescue workers have found the bodies of nine more miners after an explosion a fortnight ago, local officials said on Monday, raising the death toll to 10.

It comes a day after 11 miners were pulled out alive from the mine in eastern Shandong province where the blast struck. One miner remains unaccounted for.

A group of 22 were trapped hundreds of metres underground by the explosion on January 10, with some relying on food and medicine delivered through long shafts drilled by rescue teams.

“From Sunday afternoon to this afternoon, rescue workers have not stopped searching, and found a further nine trapped miners who unfortunately all died,” the mayor of Yantai city, Chen Fei, said at a briefing on Monday.

“Along with one miner who died on Thursday, the bodies of the nine deceased miners were all lifted out of the mine.” The initial explosion at the Hushan mine occurred in its ventilator shaft, causing a blockage that damaged the cable car.

The head of the rescue team Chen Yumin said it appeared all nine miners had been killed by the impact of a secondary explosion in the mine on January 10 as they tried to climb up to the mine entrance to escape.

A minute’s silence was held at the press conference, and the four officials bowed afterwards to pay respects to the dead.

Officials said that the identities of the deceased would be confirmed through DNA testing.

The 11 survivors are in “stable” and “non life-threatening” conditions and are currently receiving medical treatment, according to Qin Chengyong, deputy head of the Shandong provincial health commission.

Two are in serious but non life-threatening conditions — including one who had not eaten for 14 days before being rescued.

Rescue operations sped up dramatically on Sunday as a blockage in the ventilator shaft was cleared.

Onsite workers had previously estimated that it would take at least two weeks to reach the trapped miners, also hampered by high levels of underground water.

But the mayor said rescue teams will not stop searching until the last remaining miner was found.

All sections of the mine have been searched except for one that has been filled with water, rescue team leader Chen said.

Contact was first established a week ago with a group of 11 miners trapped in a section of the mine around 580 metres (1,900 feet) below the surface.

One of them was seriously injured in the initial explosion and died after falling into a coma. Rescue teams sent them deliveries of food, medicine and supplies through several long shafts drilled into the rock.

Another miner was found alive by rescuers as they attempted to reach the group on Sunday.

Both the local Communist Party secretary and the mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.

Mining accidents are common in China’s dangerous and poorly regulated sector.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2021

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