Masina calls on SANDF to assist with rescue operation of trapped 5-year-old

2017-03-01 18:34
Ekurhuleni MMC for Community Safety Vivienne Chauke (centre) with the mother of Richard Thole, Nombeko Thole. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

Ekurhuleni MMC for Community Safety Vivienne Chauke (centre) with the mother of Richard Thole, Nombeko Thole. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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Johannesburg - Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina says his office has called on the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist with the search and rescue operation of 5-year-old Richard Thole who fell into a mineshaft in Jerusalem, an informal settlement in Boksburg.

"I have personally written a letter to the minister of defence so that they can meet with the mines rescue teams and exchange ideas.

"If they think there is nothing they can do, I will go back to the community and the family to tell them that beyond this, we think we must call off the search," Masina said.

Masina said they were preparing for the worst but would remain hopeful.

"We are concerned about this incident and we are preparing for the worst. We can never put money to a life and we take this matter very seriously," Masina said.

Masina said the shaft was closed in the 1950s, but was opened four weeks ago.

READ: Slim chance of finding boy alive in mine shaft - emergency services

Rock falls delaying rescue

"We are trying to find alternative suitable land for the people, because the land is not safe," he said.

He said he had consulted with the residents of Jerusalem about moving from the area. They were in the process of being moved to the Ramaphosa informal settlement, he said.

Earlier, Ekurhuleni disaster and emergency management services spokesperson William Ntladi said heavy rock falls delayed efforts to rescue Richard from the disused shaft.

"This morning, we had five heavy sounds of rock falls coming out of the shaft. There was some vibration from those rock falls on the surface," he said.

Richard fell into the shaft on Saturday afternoon.

Since then, crowds have been gathering under a tree near the shaft entrance, hoping for news.

Over the last few days, the mines rescue team has sent a rover camera down the shaft three times in different positions and every time it got stuck behind a pile of rocks on a ledge 60m down the shaft.

A diagram showing the mine shaft. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

It is a decline shaft dipping at 55°. The decline shaft would likely be flooded at a vertical depth of approximately 146m below the surface.

'No one can survive that'

Mines Rescue Services CEO Christo de Klerk said the shaft had been covered with a cement slab, which collapsed due to heavy rain.

De Klerk said the oxygen level was at 11% at 36m down the shaft.

"I want to make it very clear that no person... can survive at [that] level of oxygen," De Klerk said.

"We sent one of our rescuers down on Monday and at 33m we were still communicating with him, but at 36m he completely passed out," he said.

He said it was impossible to continue the search and rescue operation without endangering lives.

On Wednesday afternoon Ekurhuleni disaster and emergency management services said the chances of finding Richard alive were slim.

"If... one wants to start looking at the time frame since Saturday, it's almost five days now, so technically with the size of the shaft and the challenges we face, the chances of finding the child alive is minimal," said spokesperson William Ntladi.

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Read more on:    mzwandile masina  |  johannesburg  |  accidents  |  mining

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