THREE Zimbabweans died while one was rescued after an explosion at a disused 130 year-old gold mine near Johannesburg in South Africa, amid fears that more are still trapped underground.
Three bodies were retrieved between Monday and yesterday following the gas explosion at Langlaagte Gold Mine last week. There were reportedly more than 200 Zimbabweans working at the mine when the explosion occurred last Wednesday. The three Zimbabweans died while trying to save a colleague who had been trapped at one of the three oldest gold mines that were discovered in 1886 and has over 6 000 entry points.
The South African press reported yesterday that rescuers had earlier retrieved one body, but suspended operations on Monday after they hit a dead end in the deeper end of the shaft.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa reportedly mobilised themselves following the suspension of the search and retrieved two other bodies.
The chairperson of Zimbabwean Community in South Africa Mr Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena yesterday told The Chronicle that they had identified the deceased as Willard Nyoni from Lupane while the other two dead are from Tsholotsho and Nkayi, but their names were not immediately availed.
The mine tragedy survivor, a Nyoni was said to be from Gokwe.
“There were about 200 miners in the shaft on September 7 when there was a gas explosion at around 4AM. A majority of them escaped while one remained behind. The following morning (Thursday) 15 Zimbabweans who had been working in the mine volunteered to go down the shaft to rescue him and only eight of them came out five hours later,” said Mr Mabhena.
From the seven who remained underground, three came out of the tunnel on Saturday while the other four remained trapped.
“A rescue team from the Ministry of Mines and Resources joined the search on Sunday and rescued one man from Gokwe who was still alive but weak and he was rushed to hospital and at night they retrieved the body of Willard Nyoni from Lupane before calling off the rescue operation,” said Mr Mabhena.
He said some of the survivors were arrested as soon as they emerged from the mine for illegal mining.
He said on Monday afternoon when a rescue team abandoned the search, 20 Zimbabweans volunteered to search for their colleagues and managed to retrieve two bodies.
“Those who were arrested are detained at Sun City Detention Camp and we’ve set our targets as rescuing those who are trapped before we can engage on the fate of the suspects. Officials from the Zimbabwean Embassy are aware of the issue as they visited the mine yesterday afternoon,” added Mr Mabhena.
Zimbabwe’s Consul General to South Africa, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased.
He commended Fair Funeral Parlour and Zimbabweans who offered help in the unfortunate incident. The funeral parlour said it was going to provide coffins for the deceased.