Rescue operation for boy in mine shaft halted as team waits for excavator

2017-02-28 19:08
A rescue worker descending into the mine shaft where a 5-year-old boy went missing. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

A rescue worker descending into the mine shaft where a 5-year-old boy went missing. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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Johannesburg - Disaster emergency management services have temporarily suspended rescue operations in the search for a 5-year-old boy who fell down a mine shaft outside Boksburg three days ago.

The operation in the small informal settlement of Jerusalem had to be called off on Tuesday afternoon because the team did not have an excavator, which it needs to continue the search safely.

"Yesterday [Monday], we searched up until 100m down the shaft. Today, the shaft is about 140m. Unfortunately, going below 140m, there is acidic water," said William Ntladi, disaster emergency management services spokesperson.

The Department of Mineral Resources, a mine rescue team and disaster and emergency management services met on Tuesday morning to determine the way forward.

Officials also analysed the mine shaft before concluding that an excavator would be needed.

"Our main objective is to make sure that we don't leave any stone unturned. We would like to assist the community as far as possible," he said.

Threats of protests

Ntladi explained that the team was facing numerous challenges in its efforts to find the child, including water filling the hole.

"So a contributing factor to calling off the search yesterday [Monday] was the mudslide that we had, which is why we had to call the search off at 19:30 yesterday," said Ntladi.

"When the rescue operation went down the shaft itself, they realised that the perimeter of the shaft has grown bigger. It was bigger than what it was yesterday. Overnight some part of the ground collapsed into the shaft," he said.

Ntladi did not want to speculate if the boy, who has been stuck in the unused mine shaft since Saturday, was still alive.

"One cannot say that the child is alive or dead. We as rescue technicians have to treat this as a living patient and rescue the child. If we recover the child... we do a pre-hospital medical assessment of the body. If the child doesn't respond, it is then that the child will be declared dead," he said.

Earlier, mine rescue services sent a camera down the mine shaft, but no promising visuals were returned.

The community has since become enraged, threatening to commence with protests again after residents took to the streets on Monday following a suspension of the search.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  accidents  |  mining

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