Rescue and body retrieval operations were still underway on Monday, 18 February 2019, at the Gupta-owned Gloria Coal Mine near the town of Middelburg in Mpumalanga.
According to business rescue practitioners’ representative, Mike Elliot, rescue workers were still trying to reach the underground area where people and bodies of people, suspected to be cable thieves were trapped two weeks ago.
“It’s a rescue and recovery mission and everything is going well. We are building up ventilation walls. We are trying to get enough fresh air so that we can get to the bodies.
“A team of rescue workers who reported for duty last Sunday night is now out, and a fresh team got inside. We had some challenges last night but they were all sorted out,” Elliot said.
Some 20 people were trapped underground at the mine two weeks ago following an explosion that occurred while they were allegedly stealing copper cables.
The bodies of five men were retrieved two weeks ago, while a sixth man was brought to the surface alive and taken to the hospital where he was later discharged.
On Thursday, 14 February 2019, rescue workers found seven more bodies underground but did not retrieve them because the methane gas levels had increased and prompted the second temporary suspension of rescue and retrieval operations, which resumed on Monday, 19 February 2019, Elliot said.
The situation was unusually quiet outside Gloria coal mine on Monday afternoon with no sign of family members of the deceased or people who are thought to be still trapped underground.