Published: Apr 05, 2010 4:25 PM EDT

XIANGNING, China - More than 100 Chinese miners were pulled

out alive Monday after being trapped for over a week in a flooded

coal mine, where some ate sawdust and strapped themselves to the

shafts' walls with their belts to avoid drowning while they slept.

Rescued miners wrapped in blankets, some with their

light-sensitive eyes covered but their feet bare, were hurried to

waiting ambulances that sped wailing to nearby hospitals. One

clapped on his stretcher and reached out his blackened hands to

grasp those of rescuers on either side.

Rescuers in tears hugged each other at the scene, which was

broadcast live on national television. The sudden surge in rescues

was a rare piece of good news for China's mining industry, the

deadliest in the world. A rescue spokesman said 115 survivors had

been pulled out as of 4:30 p.m. local time (0830 GMT; 4:30 a.m.

EDT).

"A miracle has finally happened," Liu Dezheng told reporters

Monday morning, after the first nine miners were taken out shortly

after midnight. "We believe that more miracles will happen."

Of the 153 initially trapped, there are still 38 miners in the

shaft. Rescuers expressed confidence Monday they could be saved but

did not say whether there had been any contact with them.

Rescuers have been pumping water out of the flooded mine since

last Sunday, when workers digging a tunnel broke into an old shaft

filled with water. The first signs of life from underground came

Friday, when tapping could be heard coming up the pipes. Divers

first headed into the tunnels over the weekend but found high,

murky water and emerged empty-handed.

As the water level continued to drop, rescuers with rubber rafts

squeezed through the narrow, low-ceilinged passages late Sunday and

pulled out the first nine survivors just after midnight. Eleven

hours later, the large wave of rescues began.

The miners had spent eight days underground and some were soaked

through. Some had hung from shaft walls by their belts for days to

avoid falling into the water when asleep. Later, they climbed into

a mining cart that floated by.

One miner described eating sawdust and tree bark and drinking

the murky water, the leader of one of the rescue teams, Chen

Yongheng, told a news conference Monday afternoon.

As the rafts approached the first trapped miners, one of them

asked, "Can you get me out of here?"

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.

"This is probably one of the most amazing rescues in the

history of mining anywhere," said David Feickert, a coal mine

safety adviser to the Chinese government.

Chen said two or three of the underground mine platforms had not

yet been checked for survivors. Conditions remained complicated by

high murky water.

Families of the survivors were thrilled. "He called and managed

to say my sister's nickname, 'Xiaomi,' so we know it's really him

and that he's alive," said Long Liming, who said he received a

call around midday from his rescued brother-in-law Fu Ziyang.

A doctor then took the phone and said Fu had to rest, Long said.

"He was trapped underground for so long, so he's very weak. But we

are very relieved to know that he made it out safely."

Officials said most of the rescued miners were in stable

condition, but state television said seven were in serious

condition.

In a sign of government concerns over possible social unrest,

family members of the trapped miners said they have been kept under

close watch in hotels and are not allowed to leave unless

accompanied by minders.

The first rescue early Monday morning had seemed beyond hope for

days before crews finally heard tapping from deep underground

Friday.

Rescuers then scrambled to understand the complicated situation

underground and send down packages of glucose, milk and letters of

encouragement. One read: "Dear fellow workers, the Party Central

Committee, the State Council and the whole nation have been

concerned for your safety all the time.... You must have confidence

and hold on to the last!"

Some workers appeared to be trapped on upper platforms of the

mine; their access to the entrance of the V-shaped shaft was

blocked by an area swamped with water.

"The situation underground was a bit more complicated than we

predicted," Luo Lin, the director of the State Administration for

Work Safety, told state television.

It was unclear Monday how deep into the mine the rescued workers

had been found.

"The miners in the lowest levels will be in the most extreme

danger," Feickert said. "Just think of a tall building, with

people on different floors, if that suddenly filled up with

water."

China Central Television said one of the newly rescued workers

still was holding his mining lamp.

A preliminary investigation last week found that the mine's

managers ignored water leaks before the accident, the State

Administration of Work Safety said.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest. Accidents killed

2,631 coal miners in China last year, down from 6,995 deaths in

2002, the most dangerous year on record, according to the State

Administration of Coal Mine Safety.