Trapped Chinese miners say thanks for medicine, call for sausages
Eleven miners trapped underground after an explosion at a Chinese mine have said they are grateful for nutritional liquids and medicine delivered via a long thin communication tunnel, but would really like some pork sausages.
The miners have been able to communicate via a new telephone line.
Rescuers had initially lowered rations on a cable, and received back a note saying "Don't stop trying to reach us".
Eleven other miners remain missing in the gold mine, their fate unclear.
The 22 men were trapped at the Hushan mine near Yantai in eastern Shandong province on 10 January when an explosion damaged the exit and the communications system of the mine, which was still under construction. The cause of the explosion is not known.
Signs of life from the group of 11 were detected a week after the blast, about 540m underground, when rescuers felt a pull on a rope they had lowered from the surface.
According to Chinese media, one of them is in a coma but the others appear to be in good health.
They reported that they had been able to communicate with a colleague trapped 50m below them, but that the contact had since been lost.
The miners thanked rescuers for porridge and other nutritional liquids and medicine sent down via the thin tunnel but said they would be grateful for a more traditional meal of sausages.
Rescuers were growing increasingly concerned by Tuesday about underground water levels, saying they were considering using submersible pumps to try to clear some of it away.
The crews had spent days after the accident tapping and waiting for signs of survivors, until finally they felt a pull on ropes that had been lowered into the mine.
Mining accidents are not uncommon in China, where the mining industry safety regulations can be poorly enforced.
Eventually the rescuers managed to make contact through a long thin communication shaft they had drilled from the surface and retrieved a note from deep underground.
"There are 11 others - one is injured, and the status of the remaining 10 is unclear," said the note. It said the miners were surrounded by rising water and needed medicine.
Rescuers replied, sending down liquid food, medicine, paper and pencils into the hole.
Chen Fei, the deputy secretary of Shandong's Yantai city, said phone conversations had established that the miners were "very weak" and that shafts were being opened up with their location.
"After we opened up the third shaft, it had a really excitable effect on the people connected. They were very confident and very hopeful that they would soon be able to get out of the mine," he told a news conference on Monday.
"We established they needed emergency medicines and equipment."
As well as painkillers, the miners reportedly asked for anti-inflammatory drugs and medical tape for the injured. They later thanked rescuers for the medicines and nutritional food, sparking hope of a positive outcome.
It took more than a day for the accident to be reported, meaning rescue teams lost precious time to start their attempt to reach the miners. The local Communist Party secretary and mayor were sacked because of the 30-hour delay.
Mining accidents in China are often linked to poorly-enforced safety regulations. In December last year, 23 miners died after a carbon monoxide leak at a coal mine. And in September, 16 workers were killed at another mine on the outskirts of Chongqing when a conveyor belt caught fire, producing high levels of carbon monoxide.