'I saw a light swaying far out in the water'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2010, 12:00am

It was 1am yesterday, and Hao Xiqing could finally take a break. Instant noodles had to suffice as a hero's dinner.

Only 21/2 hours before, Hao began the miracle at Wangjialing coal mine by finding the first group of the 115 survivors in the mine at 10.27pm on Sunday, according to Xinhua.

Back up on ground level in Xiangning county, Shanxi, Hao - his face, fingernails and yellow work clothes blackened by the mud below - ate while ambulances carrying the survivors to various hospitals whizzed past him.

Hao and his 35 teammates had been working underground to rescue the workers since 4pm on Saturday. They were actually responsible for monitoring the gas and water level and reporting those figures every two hours to headquarters.

'I suddenly saw some light swaying far out in the water as I was sitting on a water pump pipe in the tunnel,' Hao was quoted as saying. 'I thought 'where there's light, there must be survivors there'.'

Hao ran the fastest he has ever run in his life to the surface, and soon the first true hope was spread among the rescuers who had been toiling for more than 190 hours.

Many other people had given up hope. After no progress in rescuing the trapped miners, even some reporters had left.

But not the rescuers. Their motto was 'Don't give up. Don't abandon them'. More than 3,000 of them were determined to stay at the mine and do whatever it took. Finally, their faith and unceasing efforts paid off.

Television images showed survivors being brought out of the mine pit one after another, strapped to stretchers and wrapped in green blankets. Groups of rescue workers wearing blue and orange jumpsuits loaded them into ambulances.

Hundreds of family members awaiting news of their loved ones stood along the road, bursting into applause as the ambulances passed. As each survivor was brought out, joyous rescue workers and family members hugged one another.

Transporting the survivors to nearby hospitals was the next step in the rescue process. When the ambulances arrived at the hospitals, staff were ready and waiting.

Almost all the best hospitals in Taiyuan, the provincial capital, prepared for the patients in critical condition. The entire staff of at Luchang Workers' Hospital close to the mine have been on call 24 hours a day since Friday, according to Xinhua.

The hospital reserved 30 beds and various drugs and equipment. It gave survivors top priority for operating rooms if needed.

Hospital chief Yuan Tianping said their senior staff and experts discussed all the possibilities many times.

'Each step, from the ambulance to the operating room, what possible critical conditions they might have, what operating plan we would use - all of this, we have discussed thoroughly,' he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Back at the mine, rescue worker Wei Fusheng used the word that seemed to be on everyone's lips.

'It's a miracle,' he said.

An unidentified worker from Hebei told the Yangcheng Evening News: 'It's been worth all our efforts. No sleep for several days. I felt worried but excited. The earlier rescuers go underground, the better the chances our trapped brothers will survive.'

The massive rescue effort at the mine involved move than 3,000 people, including this many medical staff: 156

The number of ambulances kept on standby: 158

The amount of water pumped out of the mine by midday yesterday, in cubic metres: 170,000

This lowered the water level in the mine by, in metres: 15.7

When the mine flooded on March 28, this many miners were working underground: 261

The number that managed to make it to the surface immediately: 108