Mining accidents in China are very common. In a communist nation where human life means little, as many as 6,000 Chinese miners die a year due to poor and unsafe working conditions. These were the numbers at the turn of the current century, though closed, state-run Chinese media claims the deaths are down to ‘only six a day’ now. Many miners in China are little more than grade school aged children forced into child labor.
In 1997, in XinJiang Province, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused 79 miners to be trapped underground, all presumed dead. This week, miners from a current operation were working in the area and they broke into some of the old mining galleries from that 1997 operation to discover something truly phenomenal. One of the victims of the 1997 mine collapse, now 59 years old, Cheung Wai, was still alive, having lived underground for an astonish 17 years!
Wai survived by living off of a large ration of rice that had been placed in the galleries for emergency purposes such as this as well as by eating the many rats that populate the mines. For vegetation, he ate some sort of fluorescent moss that grew in the mines. He spent his first year in captivity burying the other 78 miners who perished.
Wai is currently hospitalized and his physical and mental health is being evaluated. According to Guinness, Wai is the new world record holder for a person trapped underground, and by a far margin, as the previous record stood at only 142 days.