JOHANNESBURG, FEB 7 — The death toll from an underground gas explosion at Gloria coal mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa, now stands at five after four more bodies were retrieved on Thursday.
Mpumalanga police Brigadier Leornard Hlathi told Xinhua that an unknown number of people trespassed the mine between Sunday and Wednesday when they encountered the explosion in the abandoned mine shaft.
Local media reported earlier that about 40 people had been trying to steal underground cables from the mine when the explosion occurred.
Some were able to reach safety, while the rest remained trapped.
One body was brought to the surface on Wednesday.
Rescue operations on Thursday were called off due to safety concerns.
“The mine officials indicate that retrieval efforts are hampered by the fact that the mineshaft is not safe and the insufficient ventilation,” Hlathi said.
Electricity was discontinued because of cable theft. Rescue would resume after electricity supply has been fixed.
Tshilidzi Mathavha, National Union Mineworkers (NUM) regional leader in Mpumalanga, told Xinhua that organized syndicates often target mines that are not in operation.
“This is a matter of syndicate trying to make a quick living. They are all over South Africa looking for mines with reserves,” Mathavha said. – XINHUA