Rescuers have confirmed that at least 10 miners were killed in an explosion in eastern China a day after 11 of their colleagues were rescued.
One man is still missing and the rescue team vowed to keep searching until he is found.
One miner was already known to have died, and the bodies of nine others who are thought to have been killed in a second blast while trying to escape were found on Monday.
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Rescuers had made contact with a group trapped around 580 metres (1,900ft) underground last week and were able to send down supplies of food and medicine through “lifelines” drilled in the rock. One of the party died last week from head injuries, and his body was brought to the surface along with the survivors on Sunday.
Another miner had been trapped on his own and had no contact with rescuers until he was discovered in an “extremely weak” condition and brought to the surface the same day.
Xiao Wenru, chief engineer at the emergency management ministry’s mine rescue centre, told a press conference on Monday that the man “survived for so long because there was water in the section and fresh air travelled underground through the drilled holes”.
The miners had been trapped for two weeks following the January 10 blast at the Hushan gold mine in Shandong province. The explosion happened in a ventilation shaft and blocked the entrance to the mine and damaged the cable car used to take them to the surface.
It was initially feared that it would take around two more weeks to reach the known survivors, but Xiao said the situation turned out to be better than expected.
“The 11 surviving miners are receiving high-quality treatment, with each of them assigned a specialist medical team as well as psychological therapy,” a spokesman for the rescue team added. “The police are taking DNA tests from the dead bodies to identify the victims.”
The rescue team said that nine bodies had been found at a depth of between 420 and 500 metres and it is thought that had been trying to escape through a tunnel when they were killed in a second explosion.
The rescuers said they have now finished searching the section of the mine that lies between 596 and 646 metres beneath the surface, but it will be difficult to search the deeper sections because of flooding.
The municipal government said the accident was not reported to local authorities for 30 hours, causing serious delays to the rescue effort.
The authorities have detained mine managers over the delay and have promised to speed up the investigation to “provide answers to the family of the deceased and society as soon as possible”.
This article China gold mine blast: 10 confirmed dead and one still missing a day after 11 survivors rescued first appeared on South China Morning Post