JOHANNESBURG — South African emergency services yesterday said they will not resume to rescue trapped miners at an abandoned shaft at a Johannesburg mine where a reported 22 Zimbabweans died.
Community members had called on the South African government to help retrieve an illegal miner from an old mine shaft in Roodepoort. The man is believed to be South African.
Operations to recover bodies grounded to a halt on Saturday. Illegal miners had recovered 24 bodies of their colleagues since Sunday, 22 of them Zimbabweans.
The recovered bodies remain at a government mortuary in the area. Community members said colleagues of the miners who died underground abandoned the mine It is believed there is at least one more miner still trapped underground, a man from KwaZulu-Natal.
A community member said: “Because the government did not help in recovering the bodies underground, the foreigners took the bodies of their fellow nationals.
“And the body remaining there is of a Zulu man, so we are asking the government to assist to bring up the body.”
Sikhumbuzo Ncube lost four relatives in the tragedy and is worried about sending back their remains to Zimbabwe.
“We really need help, but we will do our level best to ensure that they are buried at home,” he said.
Gauteng Emergency Services said there’s a large risk that a fire may break out underground or there may be a rock fall as illegal miners search for their friends at the Durban Deep mine shaft in Roodepoort. Last Friday, 23 men descended into the shaft to find their friends. Johannesburg Emergency Service (EMS) spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said: “There’s a possibility that while people are underground a fire could starting, due to the carbon monoxide.
“There’s also a possibility of major rock falls. This situation is really dangerous, which is why it was called off from our side.”
This is the latest incident involving trapped illegal miners.
Last week the bodies of five more illegal miners were recovered from an abandoned mine shaft, bringing the death toll to 11.
EMS found the bodies of the five men on the surface near an entrance to the defunct Durban Deep shaft after finding five other bodies last Tuesday.
An 18-year-old illegal miner was found dead in the same area last weekend. Mulaudzi said the miners may have died from inhaling harmful gasses underground.
“The suspicion is it might be carbon monoxide inhalation which was detected over the weekend.”
At the entrance of the shaft, families of the men who are still underground sing church hymns as they wait for any sign of their loved ones. Officials have also warned those conducting the searches that they’re at risk of being caught in a tunnel collapse.
Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are mobilising funds to help in the repatriation of bodies for burial back home.