Twenty-one construction workers, trapped when part of a tunnel they were excavating collapsed just after midnight on 5 December, were finally rescued around midday on 6 December after an intensive 35-hour-long rescue effort.
The workers, from Hubei and Sichuan, were near the exit of the tunnel that was to be part of a high-speed highway in the Longyan district of Fujian, when they heard a rustling sound followed by a large bang behind them and everything went black.
“We were trapped inside. It was really scary at that time,” one of the workers, 62-year-old Zhang Zhongquan told journalists after the rescue.
More than 600 people were reportedly involved in the rescue effort, which initially focused on getting air to the trapped workers. Three different methods were used to open air vents and by mid-afternoon contact had been established. Once it was established that the workers were all still alive, rescue workers passed bread, milk, warm clothes and torches through the narrow vent to the workers trapped inside.
The next day, rescuers manage to open a tunnel wide enough to allow the trapped workers to climb to safety. They were taken to a nearby hospital and initial reports suggested they were all in a stable condition.
The successful rescue effort is at least one piece of good news after a series of workplace disasters in China over the last few months in which hundreds of workers have died. Two separate coal mine disasters killed at least 37 people late November and a fire at a food processing plant killed at least 18 workers on 16 November. These incidents followed a massive factory fire in Kunshan that killed at least 75 workers on 2 August 2014.