Rescue crews were rushing Tuesday to save up to 22 miners trapped underground for nine days after an explosion at a gold mine in China’s eastern Shandong province, state media reported.
Porridge and insulation blankets were sent down after lifesaving supplies of food, water and medicine were first delivered to the trapped men Monday, as rescue crews tried to cut through metal cages used to transport miners and ore blocking the shaft.
Rescuers realized there were survivors underground after they felt people pulling on iron ropes that had been lowered into the mine, the official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday.
A note sent up by the miners on a line from deep in the mine Monday morning said at least 12 of them were still alive, but there was no air circulation. They also warned about a large amount of underground water where they were trapped.
“Please don’t stop the rescue,” the handwritten note said, according to the Beijing News newspaper. “We have hope.”
The miners said they did not know what happened to the rest of their colleagues. A total of 22 workers were trapped in the mine after the blast Jan. 10.
Rescuers were also able to hold two phone conversations with the miners after a phone wire was set up Monday, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The cause of the accident has not been given, but the mine had been under construction at the time of the blast, The Associated Press reported.
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
Two local senior party officials have been dismissed in the wake of the accident last week, according to the Shandong provincial government.
Increased supervision has improved safety in China’s mining industry, which used to post an average of 5,000 deaths per year. Yet, demand for coal and precious metals continues to prompt corner-cutting and accidents.
In December, 23 people died after being trapped in a mine in China’s southwestern city of Chongqing.
Dawn Liu reported from Beijing, Yuliya Talmazan from London.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.