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Search continues for 11 trapped in tunnel

By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-21 10:01

Efforts to rescue workers trapped in the Shijingshan tunnel in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, are continuing around the clock after three bodies were found by Tuesday afternoon. Eleven other workers remained missing, officials said.

"Rescuers continue to see saving lives as their primary task and are sparing no effort to locate and retrieve the workers as soon as possible," Zhuhai Mayor Huang Zhihao told a news conference on Tuesday.

The Shijingshan tunnel, part of the southern section of the Zhuhai Xingye expressway, flooded at about 3:30 am on Thursday, trapping 14 workers inside.

"After days and nights of great efforts, rescuers made it 856.1 meters into the tunnel, 303.9 meters from where the workers are believed to be trapped, as of 8 am on Tuesday," Huang said. The water level inside the flooded tunnel has dropped by 16.5 meters after several days and nights of pumping, he said.

Rescuers are now sealing leaks on top of the tunnel, which runs under a reservoir, and are continuing to drain water inside it, Huang said.

"And we are now actively coordinating and contacting various rescue forces from around the country to help search for the trapped workers," he said. "Measures include sending professional scuba divers, using underwater robots and other new and high-tech equipment to further expand the search and rescue area to help rescue the trapped workers."

Government departments have been urged to strengthen the inspection and monitoring of mountains, caves and reservoirs nearby and implement geological, hydrological and meteorological emergency warning mechanisms to prevent further disasters, Huang said.

"As long as there is a glimmer of hope, we will not give up," he said.

Various government departments have been told to do a good job in handling the aftermath of the disaster and to calm the families of the victims in the days to come, Huang said.

He said that 46 rescue teams with more than 2,500 rescue workers, 350 sets of heavy machinery and more than 200 rescue vehicles have been sent to the site to help rescue the trapped workers over the past six days.

Wang Haiwang, Party secretary and chairman of China Railway No 2 Engineering Group, the company building the tunnel, said it would continue to fulfill its corporate responsibilities and do whatever it could to help save the workers. It would also cooperate with investigators looking into the cause of the disaster.

"The workers who died were pillars of their families and our brothers," he said. "And we will do our best to take care of the families in distress and share their worries with utmost sincerity."

Construction of the tunnel began in 2019. It was scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.

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