QITAIHE, Heilongjiang, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Another 19 coal miners were pulled alive from a flooded pit in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province Tuesday after being trapped underground for a week, bringing the total number of rescued miners to 22.
The Hengtai Coal Mine became flooded around noon on Aug. 23 when miners mistakenly drilled into a neighboring flooded mine. Twenty-six miners were trapped by the floodwaters, while 19 managed to escape. Three of the trapped miners were rescued on Saturday; the body of a deceased miner was retrieved the next day.
"Rescuers are still going all-out to search for the three remaining miners. We will never give up," said Xu Guangguo, head of the provincial rescue headquarters and vice governor of Heilongjiang Province.
The first of the 19 miners rescued Tuesday was brought above ground at approximately 7 a.m. amid cheers and applause.
"I hope you will recover soon," Wang Xiankui, governor of Heilongjiang Province, told the miner. "We are doing everything we can to save your colleagues," Wang added. The miner thanked him for his concern.
When the second miner was pulled out of the shaft, Wang asked him "what's your name?" The miner replied loudly, "Liu Mingxiang! Thank you!"
The 19 rescued miners are being treated in a local hospital and are in stable condition.
"When the flood occurred, these 19 miners were located at a high position underground, which helped them to survive," said Sun Yongkui, an expert on mine disaster rescue operations and the general manager of the Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Group Co., Ltd.
"During the 165 hours they spent underground, they managed to keep their mining lamps on continuously," he said.
"Water had been dripping from the rock ceiling above their heads, which also helped them to survive," he said.
"In addition, the 278-meter-deep hole that we drilled to send oxygen to them was not far away from their position," he added.
The mine, located in Boli County in the city of Qitaihe, is one of many that have been operating illegally in recent years, despite the government's efforts to shut down small, outdated mines.
The provincial government previously ordered the mine to stop production in 2007. However, the owner restarted production without permission on Aug. 16, according to the local work safety bureau.
A miraculous rescue that was mounted in July after two miners became trapped for 188 hours in a collapsed coal mine in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has given hope to the rescuers and anxious relations of the trapped miners in Qitaihe.
A similar rescue effort was mounted last year after 115 workers became trapped in a flooded mine in north China's Shanxi Province. The miners spent 179 hours in the mine before being rescued.