The bodies of nine workers killed in explosions at a gold mine in China have been found, raising the death toll from the incident earlier this month to 10.
A total of 22 miners working about 600 metres (2,000 feet) underground were trapped after an explosion at the Hushan mine in Qixia, a major gold-producing region in China’s coastal Shandong province, on January 10.
Eleven were pulled out alive on Sunday.
Mayor of Yantai City in Shandong province, Chen Fei, told a news conference that rescuers kept searching from Sunday to Monday afternoon and found nine bodies.
One worker had earlier died after he lapsed into a coma.
The bodies of nine workers were lifted to the surface, Chen said, adding that one miner was still missing.
“Until this worker is found, we will not give up,” he said. “Our hearts are deeply grieved. We express our profound condolences, and we express deep sympathies to the families of the victim.”
The 11 miners pulled out on Sunday were rescued much earlier than expected after it emerged that steel pipes in a blocked mine shaft had prevented debris from falling lower, according to state media.
The air ventilation shaft, which was the most feasible way to bring up the workers, had been cleared to a depth of 368 metres (1,207 feet), Xiao Wenru, chief engineer for the mine rescue, told the Xinhua news agency on Monday.
“It is at this location we discovered that there were some steel pipes supporting the blockage … there is almost no blockage under the steel pipes,” said Xiao, adding that there had been a breakthrough in rescue efforts after clearing some blockages and finding the “cavities underneath”.
China’s mines are among the world’s deadliest. The country recorded 573 mine-related deaths in 2020, according to the National Mine Safety Administration.
Protracted and expensive rescue efforts are relatively new in China’s mining industry.
Increased supervision has improved safety, although demand for coal and precious metals continues to prompt corner-cutting.
A new crackdown was ordered after two accidents in mountainous southwestern Chongqing last year killed 39 miners.