August 28, 2007 / 12:21 PM / 10 years ago

Trapped miners survive on coal, urine diet

<p>Meng Xianchen (2nd L) and Meng Xianyou (2nd R), two brothers who tunnelled their way out of a coal mine collapse after being trapped for nearly six days, pose for photographers with their wives during an interview in Beijing August 27, 2007. The brothers survived by eating coal and drinking urine, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday.Stringer</p>

BEIJING (Reuters) - Two Chinese brothers who tunnelled their way out of a coal mine collapse after being trapped for nearly six days survived by eating coal and drinking urine, a local newspaper reported Tuesday.

Brothers Meng Xianchen and Meng Xianyou became trapped while working at an illegal mine in Beijing's Fangshan District late Saturday, August 18, the latest in a series of disasters to strike the world's deadliest coal mining industry.

Two days later, rescue efforts were called off and relatives began burning "ghost money" at the entrance of the mine for the dearly departed.

"At first there was no feeling, but then I was so hungry I couldn't crawl any more," Xianchen told the Beijing News. "I got so hungry, I ate a piece of coal, and I thought it quite fragrant.

"Actually, coal is bitter and unsmooth but you can chew up pieces the size of a finger. In the mine, we picked up two discarded water bottles, and drank our urine. You can only take small sips, and when you've finished, you just want to cry."

He said because they were eating coal, and were in the mine for nearly six days, they did not defecate.

"We were only able to do that the day before yesterday in hospital. It was full of coal."

Both said they would not go back into mining.

But their younger brother, Meng Xianjun, who has a decade of experience in the mines, cut in to the interview to add: "I'll still do it."

Chinese mine owners regularly flout safety regulations to meet insatiable demand for a fuel powering the country's booming economy.

A gas explosion in an Inner Mongolian mine that was operating illegally killed seven people Saturday, as officials began handing compensation to families of 181 miners trapped and presumed dead after a flood last week in eastern China.

But in a second miraculous rescue, four builders trapped more than a week ago inside a collapsed tunnel at a hydropower project in the southwestern province of Yunnan were pulled out alive early Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rescuers in Yunnan's Yingjiang County dug an extra passage to reach the workers and used a ventilation pipe to carry food and drinking water to the four, who were being treated in a local hospital following their rescue.

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