Jubilation as rescuers reach trapped miners

The team that rescued three injured gold miners at Stilfontein on Thursday travelled about 6km underground before reaching the shaft where they surfaced.

Team captain Darren Vorkel (35) said his team and the injured miners felt sheer jubilation when they saw one another.

“Jubilation… it was ecstatic,” he said after the 12-hour, overnight operation.

Another strong tremor occurred while they were underground, at about 7pm on Wednesday.

“It’s a phenomenon associated with large events like this—you get the aftershocks and you just [have to] make the place safe,” he said.

Much of the work by Vorkel’s team and five other teams, each made up of between five and eight men, involved digging rock away by hand.

“We played it by ear, making the place safe as we went along.”

Vorkel said there was “a lot of shakedown” and sporadic rock falls.

“Damage [from the earthquake] lasted for about one and a half kilometres.”

After finding the three at 2 400m it took the teams about five hours to surface. Vorkel praised the teams for their camaraderie.

“They are fit, trained brigadesmen, but as expected, they are now fatigued.”

Asked what he most wanted after the ordeal, Vorkel said: “An ice cold Coke.”

Three seriously injured gold miners were brought to the surface on Thursday morning and whisked to waiting ambulances.

Like other trapped miners who emerged earlier on Thursday, they were covered in white dust and partially clothed.

They had been underground since 12.15pm on Wednesday when the earthquake struck DRD Gold’s number five shaft at Stilfontein.

The body of a miner killed in the quake remains underground and one miner is still missing.

Thirty-eight miners had been trapped.

All shafts other than one were operational on Thursday. - Sapa

DRD Gold spokesperson Ilja Graulich said the company had initially over-estimated the number of miners who were trapped.
- Sapa

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