Five killed in South Africa coal mine blast, others trapped

SABC says experts have launched a rescue operation to search for more than 20 people trapped underground.
An idependent miner filters dirt and soil while searching for minerals following the legalisation of mining in limited areas on June 5, 2018 in Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa. – Unlike formal mining operations, small-scale miners pan for precious minerals around the edge of established quarries in the hope of coming up lucky. In April, some 800 illicit miners received licences to operate on a vast tract of land near Kimberley in the country’s centre. The landmark deal was aimed at curbing the rapid growth of illegal mining which has been spurred on by rising unemployment. (Photo by MUJAHID SAFODIEN / AFP)

South African police said Thursday that five people had died after trespassing into a disused mine, with local media reporting the deaths were caused by a gas explosion.

At least 20 people are believed to be still trapped underground at the Gloria coal mine near the town of Middelburg in the eastern province of Mpumalanga after entering the shafts to try to steal cables. 

“So far we have five killed,” police spokesman Leonard Hlathi told reporters, saying he had no number of those trapped.

State broadcaster SABC said experts had launched a rescue operation to search for more than 20 people trapped underground.

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It added that the group went underground to steal copper cables in the mine, which has been closed for several months.

Police said the group went into the mine between Sunday and Wednesday, and that rescue efforts were being hampered by unsafe conditions and a lack of ventilation.

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