As of the night of March 30, more than 1,000 rescuers from Shanxi and neighboring Henan Province were installing machines to pump out water from the underground shafts. Trucks carrying pumping machines from around the region lined the narrow mountain roads to the mine, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
On March 31, rescuers said that the trapped miners had been working on nine different platforms when the flooding occurred, and that four of the platforms had not been totally submerged, meaning that it was possible that some of the workers had survived.
"We believe that some workers might have a chance of survival. As long as there is a slim hope, we will make a 100-percent effort," Liu said at a news briefing that night.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE: Luo Lin (right), Director of the State Administration of Work Safety, tries to speak with workers trapped underground on April 3 (XING GUANGLI)
On April 1, the water level continued to fall in the mine. By 6 p.m., it had dropped by 95 cm and a total of 44,200 cubic meters of water had been pumped from the shaft, Liu said at a daily news conference later that day.
A glimmer of hope appeared on April 2 when rescuers said that they heard banging on a metal pipe underground.
Pan Zengwu, Deputy Director of the Shanxi Provincial Bureau of Coal Geology, told Xinhua that rescuers heard what they believed to be the trapped miners making the noise at 2:15 p.m., and that the rescuers knocked on the drill pipe in response.
More than 360 bags containing 200 milliliter of glucose were sent down the 250-meter deep coal mine through the holes that had been drilled the day before to ensure that oxygen could reach the flooded pit, he said.
An iron wire was found attached to the end of a drill pipe when it was lifted to the surface at 3 p.m.
Rescuers tried again to make contact with the miners by shouting through the pipe and knocking on the pipe at approximately 6:02 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. after they sent more bags of glucose into the pit.
Following a period of silence, several tapping sounds on the pipe emerged from underground.
Holding on to life again
At 1 p.m. on April 3, a team of 13 rescuers, including six divers, was sent into the mine to explore the flooded shaft, in preparation for a large-scale operation, Liu said.
The divers were carrying underwater cameras to film conditions in the shaft.
However, the rescue team stated that the situation underground was "very complicated" and the water was "murky and deep" when they returned to the surface.
"Under normal conditions, we can work for two hours underwater, but in such a complicated situation with poor water conditions, we can only work for an hour," a diver told Xinhua.
Just when people were despondent due to this news, rescuers said that they saw moving lamp lights in the mine on the night of April 4, indicating signs of life from the 153 trapped miners.
Hao Xiqing, a member of the rescue team, was the first to spot the lights.
His team had descended the shaft at 4 p.m. that day, with the objective of monitoring gas and observing the water level in the flooded cavern. At 10:27 p.m., while Hao was sitting on a pipe used to pump water from the tunnel, he raised his head and suddenly noticed the reflection of a light swaying on the surface of the water some distance away.
He immediately ran to a phone 50 meters away and reported to the rescue headquarters. Several minutes later, 10 teams of more than 100 rescue workers were sent down to his location.