Taking a break from politics here because I am seeing reports of 3,200 people trapped in a shaft collapse in South Africa.
They are sending in food and water and so far no injuries are reported.
About 3,200 miners are trapped at a South African gold mine owned by Harmony Gold Mining
Ltd., though no injuries have been reported.
Speaking on MSNBC, Harmony's acting chief executive, Graham Briggs, said the workers -- consisting of the mine's entire morning shift -- became trapped after damage to a shaft made it unsafe for workers to use.
Mr. Briggs said Harmony has been in contact with the trapped workers and has been sending them food and water. He added the company would be able to evacuate the trapped workers over the next 24 hours using a smaller cage in another shaft, but the process would be a slow one."It's a case of getting a large number of people up in cages," he told MSNBC
Reports say that these miners can be evacuated in 24hrs.
"It's a terrible situation," Seshoka told The Associated Press. "The only exit is blocked, probably by a fall of ground."
Officials said burst water pipe probably caused soil in the underground shaft to collapse. Gold mine shafts in South Africa are typically about 1½ miles below ground, he said.
The union feared the men could be trapped without oxygen because of collapsed ground, or impeded by rock falls and mud slides by the burst ware pipe.
Seshoka charged the shafts had not been properly maintained. "Our guys there tell us that they have raised concerns about the whole issue of maintenance of shafts with the mine (managers) but they have not been attended to," he said.
Mine managers and owners of the South African-owned business could not be reached for comment late Wednesday night.
Last year, 199 mineworkers died in accidents, mostly rock falls, the government Mine Health and Safety Council reported in September. (Source)
SOME RECENT MAJOR MINING DISASTERS:
August 1990 - BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA - 180 coal miners die after a gas explosion causes the main pit shaft to cave in at the colliery in Dobrnja, near Tuzla.
April 1991 - CHINA - A gas explosion kills 147 coal miners at the Sanjiao River mine in Shanxi province in northern China
More to come as the evacuate them......
So far, about 2,000 gold miners have been rescued from the shaft in South Africa's Elandsrand Mine, where more than 3,200 people were trapped late yesterday morning. This graphic depicts the mine disaster.
Here's a selection of quotes from officials and workers:
Sethiri Thibile, a miner: "I was hungry, though we were all hungry. Most of the people are scared." (Associated Press)
Caswell Kabonga, a miner: "The experience is very bad. It is hot down there. There is no water. I am very hungry and thirsty now. I feel like eating anything that I can see." (AFP)
Harmony Gold general manager Stan Bierschenk: "The people are not in danger, the people are
safe, the environmental conditions on the level are conducive to people staying there for days." (IOL)
Mbuyi Mqadi, a miner: "I'm so tired ... It was a long night and day." (IOL)
Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica: "I wouldn't call it a crisis given that mining is risky in its nature, so incidents of this kind will occur, but I still think there is room for improvement and to reduce accidents in the mines." (BBC News)
Zandile Sindiwe, a miner: "I feel happy to be on the surface. It was hot, dusty and I am quite hungry now." (Reuters)
National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Lesiba Seshoka: "All the miners are OK. We have provided them with some food and water. We are told by those coming out that they are looking forward to getting out. They are getting impatient, but they are confident they will all come out alive." (BBC News)
Innocent, a miner: "I never thought that I would come out alive. I have never experienced this form of hardship in my life. I am so tired, hungry, thirsty and annoyed. It is a big nightmare for me." (AFP)
[Update #2] The last of the miners have been evacuated.