‘Miracle’ survival in China mine


BEIJING, AFP

Two brothers in China who were given up for dead after a cave-in at a coal mine emerged from the pit over five days later, in what the press hailed Monday as a ‘miracle’ survival story.

The brothers, who drank each others’ urine in the absence of food or water, crawled out of the mine on the outskirts of Beijing on Friday, more than three days after rescue efforts were called off, the China Daily reported.

As the two men dug and crawled their way up towards the surface, their families burnt “ghost money” outside the mine in a traditional Chinese ceremony so that the pair would have some cash in the afterlife. “It is a miracle,” Zhao Jie, the doctor who treated the pair was quoted as saying.

However the brothers, Meng Xianchen and Meng Xianyou, both aged in their 40s, lost a lot of weight and suffered damage to their kidneys, the China Daily said.

The illegal mine, in Beijing’s Fangshang district, collapsed on Aug. 20, and efforts to find them were cancelled less than two days later because rescue work was supposedly too dangerous.

The rescue team also justified their decision by saying there had been no signs that the men were alive, although life-detection equipment was not used, the China Daily said, citing other press reports.

The Meng brothers, from northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, survived largely due to their vast experience as coal miners, the China Daily said.

The owner of the mine, a local villager, fled after the accident, according to the paper.

China has thousands of small, illegally run coal mines that continue to operate despite efforts by the central government to close them.

China’s coal mining industry is well known to be extremely corrupt, with local government officials and coal mine bosses colluding to allow illegal or unsafe collieries to operate.

More than 4,700 coal miners died last year, according to official figures, but independent labor groups put the real toll at up to 20,000 annually, saying many accidents are covered up.