South Africa suspends operation to rescue trapped miners

Posted by News Express | 12 September 2016 | 2,595 times

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South Africa on Sunday suspended the operation launched to rescue and recover illegal miners trapped in Johannesburg’s oldest gold mine in Langlaagte.

Councillor Michael Sun‚ the member of the mayoral committee for public safety‚ told Radio 702 that a decision on
A decision on how and when to resume the operation would be made today by the Department of Mineral Resources’ Mine Rescue Service team as it was its competency.
Sun said the city was providing assistance through its Emergency Management Services and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department‚ which was controlling the crowd that had gathered at the scene‚ including families of the illegal miners.
Sun said it “was with heavy hearts” that the operation had to be suspended on Sunday while waiting for the fire – which is believed to have started on Thursday – to go out and gases to dissipate.
Although it was believed that seven miners remained in the disused mine‚ the “lives of the rescuers could not be risked‚” explained Sun.
Earlier‚ four of the illegal miners were rescued – one of them‚ Sun said on Monday “told rescuers that he had started crawling to the surface on Friday.”
“We cannot proceed safely‚ there is no equipment that allows us to go further at this stage‚” Mines Rescue Services CEO Christo de Klerk said on Sunday.
Hours earlier‚ rescuers using illegal miners as guides had travelled 1.5km to where they believed one of the bodies was situated. But when gases and smoke became too much‚ a second team with specialised breathing apparatus had to be dispatched.
They could not proceed‚ explained De Klerk‚ because the tunnel leading to the area became too narrow.
The miners‚ known as zama zamas‚ became trapped underground on Wednesday last week. Police spokesman Capt Kay Makhubela said: “We will comment on the bodies once they have been brought up [to the surface].”
Makhubela said a group of eight illegal miners had gone underground on Wednesday, but there was a high concentration of gas. Another group of eight went to look for them on Thursday‚ he said. They had since been coming out in ones and twos.
At that stage only four illegal miners had been rescued. Two were admitted to hospital while the others were arrested‚ police said on Sunday.
But as rescue services attempted to reach the remaining miners‚ police had to hold back a 150-strong crowd that wanted to enter the mine to help save their colleagues.
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba pleaded with those who had gathered not to enter the mine.
The rescuers‚ or proto team‚ have in recent years been increasingly called on to rescue illegal miners.
In 2010‚ four proto team members died in an explosion in a Welkom mine. It is suspected that the cause of the explosion was a booby-trapped bomb left by zama zamas.
On Sunday‚ the families of illegal miners believed to be underground waited anxiously for news.
Shadrack Mlalazi said he had travelled from his home in Zimbabwe after receiving a call that his grandson‚ Banzi Sibanda‚ had died.
“Some of the people who had gone underground found a cellphone is his possession. They called the relatives. I was called and I arrived here this morning‚” Mlalazi said.
Thomas Magwa said he was part of an initial group of 16 that had gone underground on Wednesday.
He said he and Taso Regu‚ both from Zimbabwe‚ had left others underground. He confirmed that some had died.
“We have not eaten for three days. We went in with a lot of cool drinks and they are all finished‚” Magwa said.
The disused mine is close to the site where gold was discovered in 1886‚ resulting in the establishment of Johannesburg.
•Adapted from a TMG Digital report. Photo courtesy of The Sowetan shows a group of illegal miners at work.

Source: News Express

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