Rescuers say at least two more weeks to free Chinese miners

BEIJING (AFP) – Rescuers said yesterday it could take at least another two weeks to free miners trapped underground in eastern China, dashing hopes of an imminent retrieval for a group that has already spent 12 days entombed by an explosion.

The increasingly desperate attempt to save 21 workers has been further complicated by a massive blockage that has delayed drilling efforts, according to state media.

“The obstacles are just too huge, which means we need at least another 15 days or even more to reach the miners,” said Deputy Head of the local publicity department Gong Haitao according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The debris standing in the way weighs about 70 tonnes, he said.

The blast at the Hushan mine in Shandong province sealed 22 workers hundreds of metres underground on January 10.

Last Sunday, contact was made with 11 miners stuck at one location around 580 metres below the surface, and much-needed food and medical supplies were lowered down to them.

One of the group was seriously injured in the initial explosion and has been confirmed dead after suffering head injuries and falling into a coma.

By yesterday afternoon CCTV reported that rescuers continued to “deliver supplies to the trapped workers” and that their physical health is gradually returning to “normal state”.

A twelfth miner is believed to be trapped on his own, 100 metres further down in rising waters.