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Divers enter Chinese mine where 153 are trapped

 Rescue workers drop glucose packs down a pipe in the hope they will reach miners trapped underground, after water flooded portions of the Wangjialing...
 In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo, a family member, second right, of a miner trapped under the flooded Wangjialing coal mine, cries at the mine in ...
 In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo released by China's Xinhua news agency, rescuers control the drill pipe to carry out rescue operations at Wangjia...
 In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo, rescuers are ready to carry out rescue operations at Wangjialing Coal Mine, in north China's Shanxi province. Re...
 In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo, rescuers are ready to carry out rescue operations at Wangjialing Coal Mine, in north China's Shanxi province. Re...

China Mine Flood

Rescue workers drop glucose packs down a pipe in the hope they will reach miners trapped underground, after water flooded portions of the Wangjialing...

China Mine Flood

In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo, a family member, second right, of a miner trapped under the flooded Wangjialing coal mine, cries at the mine in ...

China Mine Flood

In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo released by China's Xinhua news agency, rescuers control the drill pipe to carry out rescue operations at Wangjia...

China Mine Flood

In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo, rescuers are ready to carry out rescue operations at Wangjialing Coal Mine, in north China's Shanxi province. Re...

China Mine Flood

In this Friday April 2, 2010, photo, rescuers are ready to carry out rescue operations at Wangjialing Coal Mine, in north China's Shanxi province. Re...

The first group of rescuers and divers entered a flooded Chinese mine where 153 workers have been trapped for almost a week Saturday, with two returning within hours and calling the situation underground "very difficult." There were no further signs of life came from underground after tapping was heard the previous day.
The two divers said the water was murky and complicated efforts to reach the site where rescuers hope miners are still alive, state-run China Central Television reported. The other two divers and seven rescuers who entered the mine in the early afternoon were still in the mine shaft.
The first team had been expected to explore conditions underground before more rescuers are sent.
The soonest that any large-scale rescue effort can be launched is early Sunday morning, an unidentified spokesman at rescue headquarters told the state-run Xinhua News Agency. He said the divers carried underwater cameras to film the scene.
Rescuers had cheered Friday after hearing the tapping noises and possibly shouting. Television footage showed them tapping on pipes with a wrench, then cheering and jumping after hearing a response. They lowered pens and paper, along with glucose and milk, down metal pipes to the spot where the tapping was heard.
But nothing new had been heard as of Saturday afternoon, said Wen Changjin, an official with the news center set up at the site in the northern province of Shanxi.
It was not immediately clear what risks rescuers would be taking by entering the Wangjialing mine, where 3,000 rescuers were working nonstop to pump out water. Wen said the water level underground had dropped by about 15 feet (5 meters) as of noon Saturday.
Reporters for state television read out letters that had been sent down the pipes underground, urging the trapped miners to be patient.
Government officials say the mine flooded last Sunday afternoon when workers digging tunnels broke into an old shaft filled with water. But experts said it could still take days to reach the miners _ and their survival depended on whether they had decent air to breathe and clean water to drink.
"They're doing probably the only thing they can do, which is to pump water as fast as they possibly can," David Feickert, a coal mine safety adviser to the Chinese government, said Friday. He said some mines have rescuers trained as divers for cases like this. "But from the sound of it, there's too much water in this mine and they're not sure where people are."
The flood was one of three coal mine accidents in China within a week. A gas explosion Wednesday in the central province of Henan killed 19 and left 24 trapped, and nine people died Thursday in northwestern Shaanxi province.
Wen said rescuers tapping on the pipes began to hear responses from about 820 feet (250 meters) below ground at about 2 p.m. Friday.
Rescuer Zhao Chuan told The Associated Press that another rescue team had reported hearing people shouting underground. Wen said officials at the news center had not heard reports of shouting.
Zhao was quoted by state-run China Central Television as saying that an iron wire was found tied to a drill rod and rescuers think it may have been attached by one of the trapped miners. Images of the iron wire showed it had been shaped into a circle, with its ends twisted together.
The signs of possible life gave hope to the miners' relatives.
"I'm so happy to hear the news, and I think everybody is," Tang Yinfeng, whose brother-in-law is trapped, said by phone Friday night. "The rescue work is much faster than before. We're grateful for their effort." Earlier, relatives had complained the work was going too slowly.
The 153 workers were believed to be trapped on nine different platforms in the mine, which was flooded with up 140,000 cubic meters of water _ or 37 million gallons (140 million liters) _ the equivalent of more than 55 Olympic swimming pools, state television has reported.
Rescuers said four of the platforms were not totally submerged, Xinhua reported.
The miners' survival depends on several factors, including how cold and wet they are and how much air is available, said David Creedy, a former mine consultant who now works in China for Sindicatum Carbon Capital.
"Certainly for the current time, a week or so, there's a good chance" of survival, he said.
A preliminary investigation found that the mine's managers ignored water leaks from the abandoned mine before the accident, the State Administration of Work Safety said.
China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, despite government efforts to reduce fatalities. Most accidents are blamed on failure to follow safety rules or lack of required ventilation, fire controls and equipment.
Accidents killed 2,631 coal miners in China last year, down from 6,995 deaths in 2002, the most dangerous year on record, according to the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.
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Associated Press researchers Yu Bing and Henry Hou contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-12 12:55 GMT+08:00