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 Post subject: More Than 1,700 Miners Rescued Overnight in South Africa
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:27 am 

Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 1:59 am
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More Than 1,700 Miners Rescued Overnight in South Africa
Thursday, October 4, 2007, 8:30 AM
Report combined from various sources.

Carletonville, South Africa — More than 1,700 trapped gold miners were rescued during a dramatic all-night operation and efforts were doubled Thursday to bring hundreds more of the terrified and exhausted workers to the surface. About 3,200 miners were trapped Wednesday after a compressed-air pipe in the main shaft burst and sent debris tumbling down on top of the primary elevator, damaging it. Most of the miners were stranded a kilometer and a half (about one mile) underground, and they had to be brought to the surface in a second, smaller mancage in another shaft.

There have been no casualties reported thus far. The hundreds of workers who remained underground were all near a ventilation shaft and have been given water but no food for fear of provoking a scramble among the hungry miners. Most of the miners have complained of heat exhaustion and fatigue.

Sethiri Thibile, who was in the first batch of miners rescued about nineteen hours after the accident, clutched a cold beef sandwich and a bottle of water that he was given when he reached the surface. "I was hungry, though we were all hungry," said Thibile, 32, an engineering assistant who had been underground since early Wednesday morning. He said there was no food or water in the mine, and he added, "Most of the people are scared and we also have some women miners there underground."

Rescued miners emerged from the shaft with their faces etched with dust and the lamps on their hardhats still lit. "We are still all right. I am a bit relieved but very, very hungry," miner Jerry Lepolese said afterwards.

As dawn broke over Carletonville, a town near Johannesburg, there were scenes of relief and despair. A woman put her arm around her sobbing daughter, who was apparently distraught at the lack of news about her husband. Disgruntled family members stood outside the mine offices, complaining that they had not been given enough information about their loved ones. "I am very traumatized, exhausted, not knowing what is going on," said Sam Ramohanoe, whose wife, Flora, 31, was among the trapped workers. "It is very unfair to us, not knowing what is going one with our beloved ones," he stated.

Deon Boqwana, regional chairman for the union, said there was ventilation for the miners waiting below ground and officials were in contact with the men by a telephone line in the mine. He noted that the smaller cage being used to bring miners out has a capacity to hold about 75 workers at a time. He said it normally takes three minutes to reach the surface, but, in this case, it would be slower because rescuers were being careful.

Bailey, the union health chairman, said the miners were "very afraid," hungry, and thirsty after being underground for hours. "Some of these mineworkers started duty on Tuesday evening. It is now Wednesday night and they are still underground," he said.

Company spokeswoman Amelia Soares noted that the mine had won a number of safety awards and has never had any fatal accidents. She said the company was likely to suffer considerable loss in output during the closure, but was unable to give a precise estimate, saying that attention for now was concentrated on the rescue operation.

Last year, 199 mineworkers died in accidents, mostly rock falls, the South African government Mine Health and Safety Council reported in September.

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