Dozens of mine workers trapped underground

Work is under way to rescue 167 underground workers who are trapped underground at the Blyvooruitzicht gold mine near Carletonville, the mine said on Sunday.

About 275 people, mainly maintenance and essential services employees, were working on six different levels between 2 294m and 2 882m below surface at number five shaft at 10pm on Saturday, when lightning struck an Eskom electrical substation and a mine substation, said mine spokesperson James Duncan.

The lightning strike damaged the substations and caused a complete power blackout to the shaft. Power cables caught fire, causing smoke to enter the shaft and underground working places. The fire was rapidly extinguished.

One hundred and eight workers were brought safely to surface.
Six were hospitalised for smoke inhalation and later discharged.

Two avenues were being pursued to bring the remaining 167 employees, currently safe in underground rescue bays, to surface.

Efforts were being made to repair the lightning-damaged substation and, if successful, this would provide rapid means to bring the 167 workers to surface.

“In addition, two proto teams comprising a total of ten specially trained rescue workers are on their way to the 167 people via Blyvooruitzicht’s number four shaft in order to lead them to safety,” said Duncan.—Sapa

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