|Rescuers conduct rescue operation at the flooded Xiahaizi coal mine in Dongshan Town of Qujing City, southwest China's Yunnan Province, April 7, 2014. Twenty-two out of the 26 workers have been trapped by the flood happening early Monday. (Xinhua/Ren Jun)
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QUJING, Yunnan, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Rescuers are racing to pump water from a flooded coal mine in southwest China's Yunnan Province, as all 22 trapped miners remain missing, local authorities said Monday.
As of 7 p.m., "the 22 miners were still out of contact" though the water level in the shaft in Qilin District of Qujing City is dropping, said Zhang Lei, deputy head of the rescue headquarters.
Flooding hit the Xiahaizi mine at about 4:50 a.m. Monday, when 26 workers were working underground. Four workers were rescued Monday morning.
"I had never met such an accident in my working experience in the past twenty years," said Yin Wenping, one of the four survivors.
The team of 26 miners entered the coal mine at 2 a.m. Monday, according to Yin, who stayed at a relatively higher site with three other miners while the rest reached the lowest tunnel of the coal mine.
"I heard a blast at 3:30 a.m., when I was ready to pick up the coal. 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 recalled.
Yin darted out of the mine and reported to the coal manager, but some of his relatives remained trapped underground.
"The top priority is their safety. I stayed up all night hoping they can return safely," he said.
Local authorities have sent three high-power pumps and more than 500 people in the rescue efforts, said Zhang, also vice mayor of Qujing.
Yang Bin, deputy head of the city's coal mine bureau, said the 3,000 tonnes of water underground is expected to be drawn out if all seven water pump work together for six or seven hours.
But uncertainty remains, according to Yang, adding that workers were trapped at an altitude of 1,876 meters while water level underground is 1,886 meters above the sea level.
Medical forces including ambulances and doctors are standing-by, and a medical station has been set up to provide emergency care.
Qin Guangrong, secretary of the Provincial Party Committee, said the government is taking practical and effective measures to deal with the accident, including forming a working group to comfort each family of the trapped miners.
Some relatives of the trapped miners have arrived at the site and waited anxiously as rescue operation and further investigation into the cause of the accident go on.
Previous investigation shows that the coal mine was suspected of delaying to report the accident.
"The accident took place at around 4 a.m., but the district government learnt of it at 7:50 a.m. and the city government was informed at 9:10 a.m.," said Zhang Lei.
Police are questioning the manager of the coal mine, which is owned by Liming Industrial Co.,Ltd, according to Zhang.