SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Eleven Chinese gold miners trapped underground after an explosion were rescued much earlier than expected thanks to steel pipes supporting blockages in the mine shaft, according to state-media, as the search continued for 10 others.
An air ventilation shaft, which was the most feasible way to bring up the workers, had been cleared to a depth of 368 metres (1,207 feet), Xiao Wenru, chief engineer for the mine rescue, told Xinhua News Agency on Monday.
"It is at this location we discovered that there were some steel pipes supporting the blockage ... there is almost no blockage under the steel pipes," said Xiao.
Xiao told Xinhua on Sunday there had been a breakthrough in rescue efforts after clearing some blockages and finding the "cavities underneath".
The 11 miners were rescued on Sunday, with most of them in good condition, after 14 days trapped underground, although 10 workers remain unaccounted for.
Officials had earlier said the trapped workers may have to wait another 15 days before they could be rescued due to a blockage along their intended escape route. The workers had been able to receive medical and food supplies while they were trapped.
China's mines are among the world's deadliest. The country recorded 573 mine-related deaths in 2020, according to the National Mine Safety Administration.
The Jan. 10 explosion in the Hushan mine in Qixia, a major gold-producing region under the administration of Yantai in coastal Shandong province, trapped 22 workers about 600 metres (2,000 feet) underground.
One miner is known to have died. More than 600 rescuers have been on the site working to reach the men.
(Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Michael Perry)