By Thupeyo Muleya
SOUTH AFRICA – Emergency teams had by yesterday recovered the bodies of six illegal miners, five of them Zimbabweans who died in a mine blast in Benoni, 35km outside Johannesburg, South Africa.
At least 15 Zimbabweans and Mozambicans are believed to have died after a generator they were using in the disused underground mine exploded on Monday morning.
Sources in South Africa said at least five Zimbabweans had been confirmed dead by yesterday. They were part of a group that was using the generator for lighting and drilling.
The sources said during the process, they started a fire using some planks which produced toxic gases. The toxic gases then mixed with carbon monoxide from the generator which also exploded.
“The group died of suffocation while a few who managed to escape made a report to the police,” said a source.
Another source close to investigations said yesterday that rescuers had managed to retrieve six bodies with the assistance of their relatives. “Among those retrieved yesterday are five Zimbabweans who were positively identified by their relatives here.
“The other body has been identified as that of a Mozambican national. “It’s believed that among those who are still missing are Zimbabweans and Mozambican nationals,” the source said.
The source said relatives of the missing people who are feared dead, were busy trying to retrieve the bodies yesterday after rescue teams indicated that they could only get underground after 14 days.
“The rescue team said there were still toxic gases underground, hence they couldn’t go underground,” said an official.
The official said police visited the area yesterday in the company of authorities from the Zimbabwean consulate in Johannesburg.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General in South Africa, Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, said they were yet to get full details on the incident from police at Benoni.
“We’re still consulting with the police to see if there are Zimbabweans among the victims,” he said. Efforts to get a comment from police in Johannesburg were fruitless.
The incident comes after 22 Zimbabweans perished in a disused gold mine in Roodeport, South Africa in May. Thirteen of the victims were from Nkayi, five from Gokwe South, two from Tsholotsho, one from Kwekwe and one from Kezi. The Chronicle