Miners who have already been trapped in a goldmine for 11 days due to an explosion will have to wait at least 15 more days to be rescued, authorities in eastern China have said.
The mine shaft is blocked 350 metres (1,000 feet) below the surface by 70 tonnes of debris that extend down another 100 metres (330 feet), said the Yantai city government in a statement on Thursday.
“Based on expert evaluations, the extent of the blockage… is well is out of expectation [sic],” said the statement, which was posted on the authorities’ social media account.
22 workers became trapped after an explosion on 10 January ripped through the mine, which was under construction, in Qixia, a jurisdiction under Yantai in the Shandong province.
According to state media, one worker died on Thursday after sustaining head injuries from the explosion. Rescuers have established contact with 10 of the remaining 21 workers, with one other worker reportedly alive in a nearby chamber. The status of the other 10 remains unknown.
The worker who died had been in a coma, and two others are said to be in poor health, reported state media. Rescuers have delivered food, medicine and other supplies to the group of 11 they are in contact with as they work to remove debris and improve ventilation.
Other shafts are being drilled in an effort to communicate with those trapped and to expel deadly fumes from within the mine.
About 600 people are involved in the rescue effort, with ambulances, neurosurgeons, trauma specialists and psychologists waiting at the scene. Medical workers wearing protective suits are also present at the site to take people’s temperatures as part of Covid-19 precautions.
Mine managers have been detained for waiting more than 24 hours before reporting the accident, the cause of which is still unknown.
Additional reporting by AP