SEOUL, Nov. 5 (Korea Bizwire) — The two miners rescued from a collapsed mine in southeastern South Korea are quickly recovering, medical doctors said Saturday.
The pair surprised the nation by miraculously walking out alive after being trapped for more than nine days in the zinc mine in the county of Bonghwa, 244 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Friday.
They had been stuck in a vertical shaft about 190 meters underground since the mine collapsed on Oct. 26.
“We expect they will be able to be discharged in days,” Bang Jong-hyo, the doctor treating the two patients at Andong Hospital, located in the nearby city of Andong, said during a press briefing.
“They are in quick recovery, mentally and physically. I bet they were in good physical state before.”
He said they were to start eating meals with porridge for lunch.
“I heard they had 30 sticks of instant powdered coffee at first and ate them for three days instead of meals,” he said. “I think that helped a lot. They are currently in a general ward.”
“The miners also said they subsisted by drinking water falling from the ceiling after the first three days.”
Bang said they could not have survived if they had been discovered three or four days later.
Rescue authorities said the two, both surnamed Park and aged 62 and 56, came out at 11:03 p.m. after 221 hours underground. They were in stable health condition and sent to the hospital.
Rescuers said the miners had pitched a tent with plastic and made a fire inside a tunnel to fend off cold.
The two were then waiting inside and relying on each other with hope as they heard the sound of the blast from the rescue authorities, according to the rescuers.
Rescue workers began a search for the two on Thursday by drilling a hole and inserting an endoscope in an effort to reach the point where the two men were trapped, 190 meters underground.
“My father walked out of the tunnel on his own two feet in good health. It’s unbelievable,” Park Geun-hyung, a son of the 62-year-old miner said.
“They were rescued at a site a little bit spacious near the accident site, and they had kept themselves warm with a bonfire and plastic and subsisted by drinking water that fell from the ceiling,” Yoon Yeong-don, chief of the Bonghwa fire authorities, said during a press briefing Saturday.
The site where they were discovered was a circular 100-square-meter space about 30 meters away from where they worked, where shafts from all sides are interlinked.
Bang Jang-seok, one of the rescuers, said the miners appear to have escaped to the spot to survive without staying where they were buried.
“The two miners were shoulder to shoulder to keep themselves warm when they were discovered,” he said.
He attributed their miraculous survival to the miners’ composed behavior based on the older one’s experience in the job and a contingency manual provided by their company.
President Yoon Suk-yeol hailed their return.
“This is truly miraculous,” Yoon said in a Facebook post. “I am thankful and thankful again to them. My heart is deeply touched.”
Yoon also praised the rescue workers.
Political parties also welcomed the miners’ return, expressing thanks to the survivors and hundreds of officials, firefighters and soldiers who took part in the rescue mission.
“We extend our deep appreciation to the miners who wisely and calmly waited until they were rescued,” Park Jeong-ha, a spokesperson for the ruling People Power Party (PPP) said in a written commentary.
“We also express our sincere thanks and respects to all those who participated in the rescue efforts.”
PPP leader Chung Jin-suk wrote on his Facebook page that the pair’s survival once again gave hope to the people disheartened after the Itaewon crowd crush in which at least 156 people, mostly in their 20s, were killed a week ago.
“This is a miracle that occurred after 221 hours,” Oh Yeong-hwan, the floor spokesperson of the main opposition Democratic Party, said in a written press briefing.
“We’ll pray for the two miners’ quick recovery together with all the people who worried about them,” he said.
Police launched a probe to determine the cause of the mine collapse.
The South Gyeongsang provincial police agency said it will soon question five miners who escaped the site right after the collapse as witnesses first and officials of the miners’ company later.
The company can face a criminal charge if found to be responsible for the accident, the police said.
The police will also try to determine if related government offices have fulfilled their duty of properly supervising the firm.
Park Il-jun, deputy minister of trade, industry and energy, visited the miners at the hospital in Andong.
During the visit, he vowed the ministry’s efforts to prevent any recurrence of such an accident by conducting a separate probe and conducting safety checks on about 350 mines recently hit by similar accidents.