DRAMATIC MINE RESCUE

ALL SAFE: Some of the 167 underground workers who were brought to the surface after being trapped underground since Saturday following a power blackout.  18/01/2009. Pic. Antonio Muchave.  © Sowetan.
ALL SAFE: Some of the 167 underground workers who were brought to the surface after being trapped underground since Saturday following a power blackout. 18/01/2009. Pic. Antonio Muchave. © Sowetan.

Mfundekelwa Mkhulisi

Mfundekelwa Mkhulisi

Specially trained rescue workers last night brought all 167 miners who had been trapped underground at the Blyvooruitzicht gold mine in Carletonville to safety.

The miners were trapped when a lightning strike damaged the Eskom electrical substation, causing a power blackout.

"Two rescue teams were sent to locate them and get them out. They were safe in a refuge base," said mine spokesman James Duncan.

Duncan said 275 workers were working on six different levels between 2294m and 2882m below surface at No 5 shaft on Saturday at about 10pm when lightning struck.

"A total of 108 workers were brought to surface, leaving 167 trapped. Six were treated for smoke inhalation," he said.

Duncan said power cables caught fire, sending smoke to underground workplaces.

However, the fire was rapidly extinguished.

National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said: "We are angry and upset by the total disregard of the lives of mine workers by the companies."

He said the trapped miners had no access to oxygen, food and water from the time of the accident until yesterday when rescue workers reached them.

"We call on the Minister of Minerals and Energy to take strong action against companies that fail to comply with safety standards," he said.

Meanwhile, Carletonville police said a man died on Saturday at Blyvooruitzicht mine after he was struck by a rock.

An inquest docket has been opened.

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