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China Hails 'Miracle' Rescue Of Miners

A TV screen grab shows rescuers carrying a miner away from the mine on a stretcher.
One after another, rescue workers and officials in China used the word "miracle" to describe today's successful rescue of at least 114 of 153 miners caught underground in the country’s northern Shanxi Province.

The miners had been trapped since March 28, when the Wanglialing coal mine flooded.

They survived in total darkness as rescue workers frantically pumped water out of the mine and dug to try to reach those stranded below the ground.

Family members of the miners and other onlookers joined rescue workers in applauding as more and more miners were brought to the surface.

China's government mobilized some 3,000 rescue workers to pump out water and search for the trapped miners. By April 2, hopes were fading -- until rescue workers heard the sound of tapping on a pipe. By late April 4, the first nine miners were brought to the surface, and by today Chinese officials said 114 of the miners were rescued and in stable condition.

The search for the remaining miners is continuing.

Luo Lin, head of China's State Administration of Work Safety, today spoke to rescue workers in the town of Xiangning, exhorting them to continue their efforts to find and free the remaining miners.

"To all those comrades who are taking part in the rescue operation, we offer the greatest encouragement,” Luo said. “We hope that you comrades can make the greatest effort, don't waste a second, continue to increase the intensity of the rescue operation, and give every bit of strength to rescue the affected miners."

Many of the miners arrived at the surface on stretchers with their heads covered to shield them from sunlight, which they had not seen for eight days.

One rescue worker identified as Wei Fusheng said "it was worth all of our efforts -- no sleep for several days."

The governor of Shanxi Province, Wang Ju, spoke of "two miracles." "The first is that these trapped people have made it though eight days and eight nights -- this is the miracle of life," Wang said. "Secondly, our rescue plan has been effective -- this is a miracle in China's search and rescue history."

This latest accident again returns public attention in China to the perils of the mining industry in the country. Last year more than 2,600 people were killed in mining accidents.

In the time that the rescue operation in Shanxi was under way, more than 30 Chinese miners died in separate accidents.

China's nearly insatiable need for energy supplies and poor safety standards have made its mines among the most dangerous in the world, despite severe penalties on the managers of mines where accident occur and other government efforts to improve the situation.