The story that has had China in suspense this week has closed its first chapter with an almost completely happy ending.
After two weeks buried almost 600 meters underground after an explosion in the gold mine where they worked, 11 miners have been rescued.
At least one of them in an "extremely weak" state, but all 11 alive.
A huge payoff for what has been grueling rescue work that has encountered continual complications.
Now the search against time continues for another 10 missing in this complex under construction in the province of Shandong, in the east of the country.
The last of the group of 22 trapped died last Wednesday as a result of serious head injuries suffered from the explosion.
Images broadcast live by the state-owned CCTV television network - and followed on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, by hundreds of millions of people - showed rescue teams extracting workers, individually or in groups of two or three, with eyes covered to avoid sunlight after so long underground.
Immediately, they were covered by thick military coats and were transported - some still standing, others on stretchers - to the waiting ambulances to transport them immediately to the hospital.
Until now, it had been feared that the rescue teams would still need two more weeks to access the galleries where the miners who had managed to establish contact with the surface were: a group of 11 - 10 rescued today plus the deceased on Saturday - and another lone survivor, the one in the weakest situation.
The rescue was made suddenly possible by the sudden fall to the bottom of the shaft of some large rocks that had blocked access to the mine.
Once this gap was cleared, the rescue teams were able to descend in a matter of hours to the place where the trapped workers were.
The odyssey of the 22 began on the 10th, when for reasons that are still unknown there was an explosion at the mine, which was still under construction.
The elevator for transporting the miners to the surface was damaged, and the ventilation shaft blocked by the deflagration.
The owner company took 30 hours to alert the accident, which wasted precious time to activate the rescue.
Authorities in Yantai, the town near the mine, have opened an investigation into the incident.
The rescue work suffered continuous complications due to the geological structure of the subsoil, formed by layers of especially hard rock, such as granite.
Several attempts to pierce tunnels that would allow access to the trapped had to be abandoned.
It was possible to drill a narrower conduit through which a metallic cable was introduced that became the lifeline of the buried miners: through it the rescue teams were able to send them from the 17th - when the workers already They had been trapped for a week — food, water, telephones to communicate, and medicine.
They, in turn, sent a handwritten note to the surface detailing their number and location.
“We hope that the rescue work will not stop!
We have hope! ”They wrote.
Later, through other conduits drilled in the rock, clothes and other supplies were brought to them.
China's mining sector is one of the most dangerous in the world.
Last year alone, 573 people died in accidents at its wells, according to figures from the National Administration for Mine Safety.
Although in recent years the trend has been improving, as controls on security measures have tightened: last year's numbers represent a 22% drop compared to the previous year.
For the first time since 1949, no major gas explosions were recorded in the country's coal mines, according to the Xinhua news agency.
But the incidents continue, especially in the coal mines, vital for the country: this mineral represents the main source of the energy that China consumes.
Last December, 23 people died in a well in Chongqing.