Surviving Against All Odds—The Two Miners Trapped For 10 Days In A Mine Tell Their Inspiring Story

They lived in the darkness without food for ten days.

Two miners stuck in a vertical shaft underground in a zinc mine in Bonghwa, 244 kilometers southeast of Seoul, miraculously survived for ten days. Both are in stable health condition and have been sent to the hospital. They shared their inspiring story on how they survived living in the dark with no food for 10 days before they were rescued by colleagues.

Park Jeong Ha is sixty-two years old and has been working as a miner for twenty-five years. He recounted that he followed one of the life-saving tips he remembered from the survival manual, which said that in the event of a tunnel collapse, not to stay in just one place. Instead, salvage whatever was available and prepare a shelter to minimize danger. This was precisely what he and the other miner did, barricading the place with vinyl coverings to block the cold winds.

Park, the other miner, is fifty-six years old and started working for the mining firm only four days before the accident happened. He shared that he was shrouded in darkness as 900 tons of debris collapsed around them. He was so shocked he couldn’t feel his arms and legs at first. His head was paralyzed, and he couldn’t think rationally, sometimes crying about their situation. He credited surviving to his superior, who had many years of experience working as a miner.

Rescue of one of the miners that got trapped in the zinc mine. | ,i>Yonhap

They barely knew each other but being trapped for ten days got them to be acquainted. All they had to survive were four liters of water, eighteen packs of coffee mix, and an electric water heater. They initially tried heating the heater with a bonfire they made with available wood in a space that would allow the fire without suffocating them. The fire melted the heater’s plastic covering but left a stainless steel container within the device, which they used to boil water for coffee. Their supplies were consumed in three days.

Thankfully they could collect underground water dripping from above, which they drank without boiling. The younger Park vomited twice while drinking it.

They kept looking for ways to escape during the first few days, but large, immovable rocks blocked all pathways.

We dug about 10 meters but gave up after seeing no signs of meeting any path for escape. Countless times we climbed up a rocky heap about 70 degrees to handpick our way through but kept sliding down unsuccessfully. We had 20 explosives and used them over two times to blow up the rocks, but it did little and didn’t help create an escape path. We took turns clanging on pipes in the tunnel to make sounds to the outside world for about 30 to 40 minutes each time, but there were no signs of a response.

—Park, 56 years old

Five days after the mine collapsed, they heard explosions from outside, which grew louder the next day. Though they hoped that help was coming, their bodies were already weakening. By the eighth day, the younger Park felt his strength had reached its limit. Park Jeong Ha meanwhile remained hopeful that his fellow miners were attempting to save them.

We miners have nothing; we are just a bunch of poor men with nothing to lose. We may smell bad, but we are incredibly resilient and watch our friends’ backs. That gave me hope for the rescue.

—Park Jeong Ha

On the day they were rescued, both miners’ headlamps started flickering. The older Park was making a fire and told the younger Park that there might not be any hope left of them being rescued. But minutes later, Park Jeong Ha heard an explosion which the younger Park didn’t hear. The older Park then assumed he was hallucinating.
However, the explosions were getting louder, prompting them to put their safety helmets back on. As they backed away, they heard another loud explosion, and suddenly, light broke through the darkness from the rubble outside. They saw their colleagues rushing in, one of them hugging the older Park, crying. Park fell to his knees, sobbing.

Coworkers of the two survivors trapped in a zinc mine hug each other after finding the trapped miners still alive. | Gyeongbuk Fire Service Headquarters

Bang Jang Seok, one of the rescuers, said the survivors seemed to have escaped to the spot where they were found, leaving the place where they were buried when the mine collapsed. He noted they were shoulder to shoulder to keep themselves warm when they were found. He credited their miraculous survival to remaining composed despite the situation and following the company’s contingency manual. The older Park took the lead because of his years of experience working on the job.
A representative of Andong Hospital, where the two survivors were admitted, told The Korea Times that they were respecting the requests of the survivors’ families not to go into detail about their health conditions. Though both survivors ate well, they sometimes awakened from sleep with minor fits. The hospital committed to monitoring their psychological state and would run an opthalmological examination of their swollen eyes.

Surviving miners in the recovery room of Andong Hospital in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province. | Yonhap

 

Source: The Korea Times and The Korea Times