After being trapped in a flooded coal mine for more than a week, 114 of 153 workers have been rescued from the Wangjialing mine in China’s Shanxi province. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The first rescue early Monday morning had seemed beyond hope for days before crews finally heard tapping from deep underground Friday.

The miners had been trapped since March 28 when workers digging tunnels broke into a water-filled abandoned shaft. Rescuers then scrambled to understand the complicated situation underground. Some workers appeared to be trapped on upper platforms of the mine by a V-shaped shaft that was swamped with water.

The challenge has been to pump out enough water to even enter the mine safely. Divers who entered Saturday afternoon came back within a couple of hours, saying the black, murky water made reaching the platforms very difficult.

… Some of the soaked miners had hung from shaft walls by their belts for days to avoid falling into the water when asleep. Hundreds of rescuers were underground with hopes that glimpses of swinging lights and new tapping sounds meant even more survivors could be found.

… Liu Qiang, a medical officer involved in the rescue, said the survivors had hypothermia, severe dehydration and skin infections from being in the water so long. Some also were in shock and had low blood pressure.

Reports on the situation at the mine have noted that coal mines in China are particularly deadly, even though the number of deaths dropped from 6,995 in 2002 to 2,631 in 2009.

This rescue effort represents an enormous – and certainly worthwhile – investment of human and financial resources. Are governments and mine operators making commensurate investments in preventing mine disasters?