December 12, 2007

Trapped Miners Ate Belt, Paper to Survive


BEIJING - Miners trapped for nearly a week in a collapsed mine in northern China ate a leather belt and paper to stay alive, state media reported today.

Eleven men told their story after they were rescued Sunday from a collapsed iron and gold mine in Chengde, north of Beijing, where they had been trapped, the official Beijing News reported.

Their rescue and survival follows a similar case in August in which two brothers, Meng Xianchen and Meng Xianyou, became mini- celebrities after they recounted how they clawed their way to the surface after nearly six days trapped in a collapsed coal mine.

All 11 were in stable condition and were able to walk out with the help of rescuers.

The first miner rescued, Wu Pengyong, 33, recounted how they drank dirty mine water and ate paper and orange peels to survive as they waited in the dark, according to the Beijing News.

"Later, we got really hungry and it was lucky I had a leather belt. I boiled it but it wouldn't cook, so I divided the half- cooked belt and gave it to everyone to eat," Wu was quoted as saying.

After giving up hope of a rescue, they heard the sound of a digging machine outside.

"We are really grateful for the rescuers for saving us," a second miner, Bai Guoxin, told the newspaper.

The accident happened Monday afternoon, but the mine owner delayed reporting it to local authorities until Thursday. Mine owners routinely attempt to hide accidents from authorities to avoid being fined or shut down.

A similar delay is blamed for the high death toll in a mine explosion in northern China last week which killed 105 people. Operators reportedly waited more than five hours before calling in outside rescuers.

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