'They know the channels best' - Illegal miners help search in Langlaagte rescue

2016-09-13 06:17
Mines Rescue team making their way down the shaft. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

Mines Rescue team making their way down the shaft. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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Johannesburg - Highly specialised rescue technicians and illegal miners formed an unlikely partnership as they spent Monday night searching for men trapped underground at a disused Langlaagte mine.

The teams found the body of a man shortly before 21:00 and spent some time getting the body to the surface.

Earlier on Monday, three illegal miners, commonly known as "zama zamas", were arrested at the disused mineshaft and taken for questioning.

Authorities are unable to confirm how many people are missing.

On Wednesday morning last week a group of miners went into the shaft. It was unclear how many were in this group.

On Thursday 16 miners went down to look for them. Only eight surfaced. Another eight people went down on Saturday morning to help with the search.

Only four returned on Sunday.

With the search continuing, authorities have made an unorthodox move; equipping the miners and sending them back underground in the search for their missing comrades.  

Police spokesperson Kay Makhubela said it was the illegal miners' knowledge of the bowels of the mine that made their contribution so valuable.

"The rescuers were guided by the illegal miners because they assisted through the channels. They know the channels best," he said.

One man who was rescued from the mine remains in a critical condition after being trapped below the surface for nearly a week.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  illegal miners  |  mining

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