Rescued miner says he never lost hope of escaping from collapsed mine

Park Jung-ha, one of the two miners who walked out of a collapsed mine Friday night after being trapped for nine days, said he never lost hope and made constant efforts to find a way out.
“It’s good to be out. We spent time consoling each other in the tunnel,” the 62-year old told Yonhap News Agency in an interview Saturday as he was recovering in a hospital in Andong, 268 kilometers southeast of Seoul. “We looked around the tunnel holding onto hope that there would be a way if we tried everything.”
Park and another miner, also surnamed Park and aged 56, had been stuck in a vertical shaft about 190 meters underground at a zinc mine in the county of Bonghwa, 244 km southeast of Seoul, since the mine collapsed on Oct. 26. The miners subsisted on instant powdered coffee that they brought with them before being rescued after 221 hours.

“When the accident first happened, I never imagined it would take this long,” he said as he thanked the rescue workers and everyone who supported them. “I could only survive because of all the efforts made by many people.”
As he recounted the moment he was miraculously rescued, Park said, “The blast sound that seemed so far away was a real blast this time and we faced the rescue workers as the tunnel was penetrated through to the other side.”
“If we weren’t out by now, we would probably be holding each other and crying in the mine,” he said as he turned to his colleague in the room.
Park said the pair made unrelenting efforts to escape from the tunnel.
On the second and third day after the collapse, the two digged some 10 meters of the ramp way section of the tunnel but decided against going on further to conserve strength.
“We checked every tunnel we could go in to find a possible bypassing tunnel but they were all full of debris,” he said.
Although they failed to dig the tunnel themselves, they did not lose hope and continued efforts to escape.
“There was a ladder in the tunnel and we thought we could (escape) if it was about 300 meters to the surface,” he said. “We tried to go up vertically with the ladder but as we were going up, it was full of wood, pipes, H-beams as the soil and earth had fallen and we couldn’t go on unless we blasted through them.”
Park said he tried to communicate with the surface by hitting a pipe in the tunnel and screaming to no avail.
“We were most afraid that the batteries of the safety lights on our foreheads would die out,” he said as he recounted their most dire moments. “When we were rescued our lights were blinking, signaling that the batteries were almost empty.”
Park also met North Gyeongsang Province Governor Lee Cheol-woo who came to visit him in the hospital.
“South Korea is a good country, but things like this should not happen repeatedly,” he told the governor.
“After I came out, I head that there was a big disaster in our country,” Park said, referring to the Itaewon crowd crush last Saturday. “Incidents such as these should not happen again.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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