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Miners lived on dirty water for 25 days

THREE miners survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in southwest China's Guizhou Province by drinking dirty water and chewing coal before rescuers burrowed through a collapsed tunnel to reach them.

Rescuers yesterday described the survival of the three men - 35-year-old Wang Kuangwei, and Wang Quanjie and Zhao Weixing, both 36 - as a "miracle."

Li Xingwei, head of the Longchang coal mine in Qinglong County, was the first to find the lucky trio on Sunday at 11:28am.

Li said he and 10 others had just cleared a tunnel, which had been blocked since the mine flooded on June 17, when they saw light ahead. "We crept along the tunnel in excitement, seeing someone sitting in front," he said.

Li said he asked the miners how many people were there. A voice answered weakly but clearly "three," and "we are from Henan."

While rescuers carried the miners out on their backs, Zhao said "I want some water," while Wang Quanjie said "I want to go out."

He Minghua, a doctor with the People's Hospital of Qinglong, examined the miners.

"They were all conscious, and their hearts and lungs were in good condition, and their blood pressure, breathing and heartbeats were steady," he said.

Wang said they just drank water in the shaft. Normally, human beings could live 10 days solely on water, said Yang Jie, a doctor with the hospital affiliated to the Guiyang Academy of Medicine.

He Sijun, who has been doing mine rescue work for six years, said he believed their willpower played an important role in their survival.

"They were experienced," he said. "They tried to save their energy and firmly believed that they would be saved ultimately."

Another reason for their miracle was enough oxygen. "At the site where they were found water seeped in, and oxygen could get into the tunnel as well," he said.

The Xinqiao Coal Mine was flooded on June 17 when 16 miners were working underground. Rescuers found the first body on June 25.

The miners have not yet given detailed accounts because doctors don't want them to talk much because of health concerns.

Rescuers were encouraged by the miracle and will keep searching for the 12 still missing.


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