Efforts have been underway to reach the workers since the blast occurred about 240 meters (800 feet) from the mine’s entrance. Food, medical supplies, blankets, and batches of nutrient solution have been passed down a shaft to the 10 workers, who have shown a “gradual improvement” in their physical condition, according to rescue workers cited by Xinhua.
According to state media, rescue teams are hoping to pull the miners out through a 711-millimeter (28-inch) diameter passage. By noon Thursday, rescuers had drilled 18 meters into the mineshaft but heavy debris could slow efforts.
Gong Haitao, deputy head of Yantai’s publicity department, said at a press conference Thursday the mineshaft is blocked 350 to 446 meters (1,100 to 1,400 feet) below the surface by 70 tons of debris.
“Although the efficiency (of the rescue work) has improved since the 20th, it will take at least 15 days to clear the rescue channel in the main shaft due to the voluminous size of the obstacles,” Gong said.
The miners have already been trapped underground for 12 days.
Gong added that rescuers are trying various different ways to clear the obstacles, including the use of high powered machinery and deploying more rescue workers.
Concern is growing for the uncontacted miners. Some of the workers in the chamber are trying to help rescuers locate their missing colleagues by using laser pointers and loudspeakers, but they have received no response, Xinhua reported.
Rescuers have also drilled smaller channels into other sections of the mine and are lowering nutrient solutions and other means to detect breathing or movement, but no signs of life have been encountered.
Rescue workers are reported to have first heard knocking sounds from those trapped on January 17, followed by pulling on iron ropes. On Monday miners were able to get a note to rescuers. Xinhua quoted the note as saying: “We are heavily exhausted and in urgent need of stomach medicine, painkillers, medical tape, external anti-inflammatory drugs, and three people have high blood pressure.”