Flooding struck a mine in Qujing City in China's southwest Yunnan province in the early hours of April 7, when a total of 26 workers were underground. Four workers have been rescued, but as of Monday afternoon, 22 miners still remained out of contact, according to Zhang Lei, deputy head of the rescue headquarters.
Lei's team has been racing to pump water from the Xiahaizi coal mine, slowly slashing water levels from the lower mine shaft. Three high-powered pumps and more than 500 people have been dispatched. The team of 26 miners entered the coal miners at 2 a.m. Monday, and the four survivors were located at a relatively higher site while the rest reached the lowest tunnel. Flooding hit the mine at about 4:50 a.m.
"I heard a blast at 3:30 a.m., when I was ready to pick up the coal," Yin Wenping, one of the four survivors, told Xinhua News. "I waited for half an hour but no coal was transported, then I ran down and saw several meters of the tunnel was flooded."
Yin bolted out of the mine and reported to the coal manager, but some of his relatives remained trapped underground.
China is the world's largest consumer of coal, according to AFP. Although authorities have been improving conditions in authorities in smaller operations, the mining industry there still sometimes sidesteps safety regulations. In 2013, accidents left 1,049 people dead or missing in China, the central government said on its websites, a 25 percent drop from 2012.
Yang Bin, deputy head of the Quajing City's coal mine bureau, said that the 3,000 tons of water underground is expected to be drawn out if all water pumps work for six or seven hours. The workers were trapped at an altitude of 1,876 meters while water level underground is 1,886 meters above the sea level. Medical forces are standing by, and Xinhua said an investigation was underway.
While mining accidents can prove fatal, it's of the utmost importance to enhance safety measures to lower the chances of issues happening and give workers the benefit of the doubt if they do. Equipment monitoring, machine maintenance software and crack detection can help warn workers if levels are exceeding secure amounts.