China: A Coal miner found alive after 17 years underground


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A group of local coal miners from Urumqi, China, got a crazy surprise while they were busy mining in an old mine that was abandoned for 17 years when an earthquake caused large parts of the tunnel to collapse.

While examining the openings and tunnels, they encountered Chung Wai, a 59-year-old man who survived the crash of 1999, which was quite reasonably in a very bad condition. He was immediately taken to a hospital where he underwent medical and psychological tests during the next few weeks.

Poor Chung Wei is a miner who was trapped for 17 years underground along with the bodies of 78 workers who didn't survive the collapse of the mine, when an 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook the province. Somehow, fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), Mr. Chung was saved by the fact that the air vent was still attached from the place he was at back to the surface of the earth, and he could breathe enough air to keep him alive.

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He managed to survive thanks to a stock of rice and water that was kept in an underground reservoir, especially for such situations. He was feeding off the rats and mice that were in the mine, as well as some type of moss that was his only source of vitamins. Eventhough he suffered a bad physical and mental state, during one year he buried all his colleagues who did not survive the accident.

Mining accidents are fairly common in China, despite the Government's efforts on the subject. In recent years, authorities are closing pirated mines operating without a license, that make up almost 80% of all mines in China. Closure of about 1,000 unlicensed mines last year has helped to reduce the death toll by nearly 50 percent.

But Mr. Chung's case is unique, and is also a world record, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The previous record of life underground was 142 days, and it belonged to a British man named Geoff Smith. He volunteered to be buried in the backyard of his favorite pub Railway Inn, when he set a goal to break the record.


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