A miner has died after reportedly falling into a coma after an explosion in Shandong province left him and 21 others trapped underground. Rescuers have been scrambling to deliver supplies and establish an escape route.
A worker trapped in a Chinese gold mine has died as rescuers scrambled to save 21 others who have been stuck underground for nearly two weeks, state media reported on Thursday.
Rescuers have been in contact with 11 workers trapped in one chamber and have delivered food, medicine and other supplies to them.
The workers have been stranded hundreds of meters underground at the Hushan mine near Qixia city in east China's Shandong province after a January 10 explosion sealed the entrance and cut off communications.
State media said one of them had suffered a head injury in the initial explosion and fell into a coma before dying. Two other workers in the group were described as being in poor health.
Another is believed to be trapped on his own, 100 meters (330 feet) further down in rising waters, but his condition is unknown and rescue teams have not reached him.
The condition of another 10 workers remains unknown. "They have also been lowering life detectors and nutrient solutions to other sections to locate the other missing miners but continue to receive no life signs," state news agency Xinhua reported.
Rescuers made contact on Sunday with the first group of miners at a site around 580 meters (1,900 feet) below the surface. They were attempting to clear cages, skips and other debris blocking the main shaft while drilling other shafts for communication, ventilation and possibly to lift workers to the surface.
Emergency responders have drilled two "lifeline" channels to deliver materials to the miners and installed a telephone line while trying to widen a shaft to eventually allow the miners to be extracted.
The managers of the mine have been detained for waiting more than a day to report the accident, the cause of which has not yet been announced.
Meanwhile, both the local Communist Party secretary and the mayor have been dismissed over the 30-hour delay and an official investigation is underway to determine the cause of the explosion.
Recent improved regulations have boosted safety in China's mining industry, which used to see an average of 5,000 deaths per year. However, accidents are still common, and many mines still cut safety corners. In December, 23 workers died after getting stuck underground in a coal mine in Chongqing.
lc/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)