Chinese rescuers hope to drill shaft to free trapped gold miners

STR / AFP / CNS

Rescuers in China were drilling new shafts on Thursday to reach miners trapped underground for 11 days following an explosion, including one they hope to use to bring the survivors back to safety.

A total of 22 workers were trapped underground in the Jan. 10 blast in the Hushan gold mine on the outskirts of Yantai, a major gold producing region in Shandong province on the northeast coast.

Rescuers have been in contact with 11 miners trapped in the middle section of the mine, about 350 metres underground, and have managed to send food and medical supplies down to them.

One borehole had to be sealed up with cement after a water leak threatened the miners' safety.

One miner is known to have died of injuries sustained in the initial blast, state media reported on Wednesday.

The local government said on its official social media feed on Thursday that rescuers had started drilling a 10th channel with a 711-mm (28 inches) diameter that they hope will allow the 11 to be extracted.

On a foggy Thursday morning, the road leading to the mine was sealed off by police to ensure rescue efforts were not hampered. Health workers in protective gear took temperatures 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.

A Reuters team saw fire trucks and cars coming and going through a checkpoint on an approach road.

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