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Ghastly gas death for 30 miners in SA

Up to 30 Illegal miners are believed to have died following the underground outbreak of carbon monoxide at a disused mine in Langlaagte, Joburg on Friday.

Their bodies are still trapped underground as a rescue operation has yet to begin. It is expected to be launched today. Hundreds of traumatised families on Saturday gathered in the area, hoping for a miracle - that their loved ones would come out alive.

The family members have roped in the services of two sangomas (traditional healers), who performed rituals outside the entry point of the disused mine.

By last night, the numbers of desperate families were growing. They were transported to the site by various taxis.

Families told The Sunday Independent on Saturday that their relatives had been missing for more than three days at the Gordon Harrison Park - a heritage site in Main Reef Road, Langlaagte. However, they only became aware of their fate on Saturday morning.

The site has been closed to the public but illegal miners manage to gain entry on a daily basis in their desperate search for gold.

Their ordeal began on Friday night when some of them went to report the tragedy to the family members of the trapped miners.

The majority of the relatives woke up early on Saturday and started camping outside the mine. Others were carrying torches, digging equipment and food, hoping to launch their own rescue operation.

One of the hopeful awaiting family members was Godfrey Luphahla, who last saw his brother, Sibangani Sibanda, on Thursday.

“Sibangani disappeared three days ago. He came to dig in this mine for the first time in his life. He was with a group of people who came to dig, but he never returned,” Luphahla said.

Most of them confirmed that they were illegal miners and the majority of them hailed from Zimbabwe.

A local businessman in the area, who did not want to be named, said between 10 and 20 people make their way to the mine shaft on a daily basis.

He said this was a lucrative business for the illegal miners, and the ringleaders of the gold cartel were often seen at the premises to collect the precious metal.

“It is a daily thing. In the past, Langlaagte police have tried to arrest them for trespassing but the number grew further,” the businessman said.

He said from his premises he was able to see some of the members of the specialised units of the police arriving at the site and leaving soon after collecting something from the illegal miners.

Gauteng police spokesman Captain Kay Makhubela said the police took down the names of those believed to have been trapped underground. The names have been handed over to the rescue team.

The rescuers would start their operations today because they were busy with other operations on the West Rand on Saturday.

Although family members have estimated the number o the victims be about 30, Makhubela said the police were still not sure how many people were trapped underground.

“We also got a report that another group entered the disused mines this morning but only four managed to come out,” Makhubela said.

One of the illegal miners confirmed that they get paid for digging illegally.

He said they have several clients who purchase the gold from them.

He pointed out various shaft along Main Reef Road between Langlaagte and Kagiso township, outside Krugersdorp.

One of the disused mine is situated behind Highgate Mall in Roodepoort.

Other shafts are found on the patches of veld along the main road.

The illegal miner said he was paid R500 for 1 gram of gold and on a good week he was able to rake in more than R8 000.


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