The explosion happened in an instant. Wang Kang, one of 22 workers trapped some 2,000 feet underground as debris filled the shaft at the under-construction gold mine in China's Shandong province, was sent flying. "It blasted us really far away, and our safety helmets cracked," the miner says in his first interview since the Jan. 10 blast and his rescue more than two weeks later, per the BBC. Wang soon realized he was trapped with 10 other miners in the fifth section of the mine. The group knew how difficult it would be for rescuers to reach them there. So they tried to help as best they could. Every day, one of the group would knock on a drill pipe that reached the surface. This is how rescuers observed the first sign of life. As Wang knocked five times on Jan. 17 in an attempt to signal the miners' location, he heard 20 knocks in return.
"We thought that could mean the number of miners underground, so I ... responded with 22 knocks," Wang says. Rescuers soon after drilled a small shaft allowing them to communicate with the group and deliver food and medicine. Du An, who was trapped with Wang, says they were without food for nine days. He adds the group only drank enough groundwater to survive because it wasn't "very suitable for drinking." But "we comforted each other with encouraging words. That's how we pulled through." Now, "I feel like I am reborn." The group of 11, minus one miner who died last week, were rescued Sunday, along with another miner found above them. All are in stable condition, per AFP. Nine bodies were found in the mine's sixth section, per the BBC. The search continues for a final miner, who initially communicated with the group of 11 from a section below them. (Read more China stories.)