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Home>>China >> China Society
08:28, June 08, 2009

Rescuers race against time to save trapped miners in China landslide

The second blasting is carried out at around 1:00 p.m. to enable the drilling of a hole 40 meters deep to send food and air to 27 trapped miners who could still be alive after Friday's massive landslide in Wulong County of southwest China's Chongqing, June 7, 2009.(Xinhua/Liu Chan)

Rescuers on Sunday recovered seven bodies from the debris of Friday's landslide site in southwest China, as the search continued to find the 65 people still missing.

The seven bodies, including five men and two women, were yet to be identified, according to the rescue headquarters.

A brief farewell ceremony was held for the deceased.

Rescuers carried out a second explosion at 11 a.m. Sunday to enable the drilling of holes to send food and air to 27 trapped miners who could still be alive after the massive landslide in Chongqing Municipality.

Local militia and firemen stand on the alert prior to the second blasting in Wulong County of southwest China's Chongqing, June 7, 2009. The second blasting was carried out at around 1:00 p.m. Sunday to enable the drilling of a hole 40 meters deep to send food and air to 27 trapped miners who could still be alive after Friday's massive landslide.(Xinhua/Liu Chan)

Three drilling machines were working and staff were setting up a fourth, said Ai Yang, spokesman for the Chongqing municipal government.

More than 400 experts, technicians and rescuers had joined the search and rescue operation at the headquarters, said Ai.

Eighty-five people whose homes were threatened by a barrier lake formed by the landslide would be relocated, said Ai. Those in the affected area downstream of the lake had already been evacuated.

The two entrances of the Jiwei Mountain mine were both buried under rocks when the landslide happened at around 3 p.m. Friday. It also buried an iron ore plant and 12 houses in Tiekuang Township, Wulong County, about 170 kilometers southeast of central Chongqing.

Eight people -- three of them seriously injured -- were rescued late Friday. But 21 residents, the 27 trapped miners and 18 miners who worked above ground, two telecommunications company workers and four passers-by, went missing.

With sniffer dogs and life detectors, hundreds of rescuers found no signs of life on the debris on Saturday, said a spokesman with the rescue headquarters.

The 27 miners are about 150 to 200 meters below ground. The air and a small amount of water in the mine could support them for five to seven days. Water is believed to exist in the shafts as Jiwei Mountain mainly comprised limestone, said the spokesman.

Early Sunday, rescuers completed a 28-km road to the site for large machinery such as excavators and bulldozers. Previously, there was only a simple village road.

"We will do our best and use every second to rescue them," said the spokesman, but the mountain was still quite unstable and the rescue operation was dangerous.

On the basis of aerial photos, experts estimated the volume of the landslide debris at about 12 million cubic meters, said Ai Yang.

"Under such circumstances, every step forward in rescue will need unimaginable caution, manpower and material resources," he said.

"The rock debris just covered the entrance, but there are water channels in the shaft. I believe my husband is still alive," said Chen Yuanmei, a woman at the site.

Chen said she was tending her garden in Hongbao Village, when she saw the rocks slide down, throwing up black dust clouds. The dust lingered around 10 minutes and covered her yard, which is 2 km from the mountain.

She felt something bad had happened and immediately called the mine authorities, but failed to reach them.

The Chongqing Land, Resources and Housing Administration has issued an emergency circular urging districts and counties to organize professional teams to launch a thorough inspection of geological disaster-prone areas.

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang inspected the site early Saturday, asking rescuers to try their best while avoiding secondary disasters. Experts have been asked to investigate the cause of the landslide.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has earmarked 6 million yuan (870,000 U.S. dollars) to the county for relief work.

The money would be mainly used as benefits for the victims' families and relocation of residents, said Ai.

A large helicopter would also join the rescue work to help carry in equipment and personnel early on Monday, he said.


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