Efforts are being made to reach the workers, as the blast occurred about 240 meters (800 feet) from the entrance to the mine. Food, medical supplies, blankets and batches of nutrient solutions were handed over at the shaft to the 10 workers, who showed “gradual improvement” in their physical condition, according to rescue workers quoted by Xinhua.
According to state media, rescue teams hope to pull the miners out through a 711-millimeter (28-inch) diameter passage. As of noon on Thursday, rescuers had drilled 18 meters into the mine, but heavy debris could slow efforts.
Gong Haitao, deputy head of Yantai’s publicity department, told a news conference Thursday that the mine shaft was blocked 350 to 446 meters (1,100 to 1,400 feet) below the surface of 70 tons of debris.
“Although the efficiency (of rescue operations) has improved since the 20th, it will take at least 15 days to clear the rescue canal in the main shaft due to the volume of obstacles,” Gong said.
The miners have been locked up underground for 12 days.
Gong added that rescuers are trying in various different ways to remove obstacles, including the use of powerful machinery and the deployment of more rescue workers.
Concerns are growing about contactless miners. Some of the camera workers tried to help rescuers find their missing colleagues using laser pointers and speakers, but they did not receive a response, Xinhua said.
Rescuers have also drilled smaller channels in other sections of the mine and reduced nutrient solutions and other means of detecting breathing or movement, but no signs of life have been found.
Rescue workers reportedly first heard knocking sounds from those trapped on January 17, followed by pulling iron ropes. On Monday, the miners managed to get a note to the rescuers. Xinhua quoted the note as saying, “We are very exhausted and urgently need stomach medications, painkillers, medical tape, external anti-inflammatory drugs, and three people have high blood pressure.”