Families of trapped mineworkers plead for rescue operations to resume

People seating opposite to Gloria Mine
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Families of the more than 20 people trapped underground at the Gloria Coal Mine in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, have pleaded with mineworkers to allow rescue operations to resume.

They believe their loved ones could still be alive, despite being underground for a week.

The rescue mission remains halted by mineworkers who are demanding outstanding salaries from mine management.

Monday is yet another emotional day for relatives of those trapped underground. More than 20 are feared dead after a gas explosion. It’s alleged they went underground to steal copper cables.

Seven days later they haven’t been rescued.

Relative of two trapped underground, Vusi Mthembu says, “We still need them whether dead or alive. When we check these two things, money and life, the most important thing is life. They can still strike for their money but they must wait for us to get help so that our cousins can get out of that shaft and then they will continue with their strike.”

Wife of one of the trapped, Andisiwe Ndabeni says, “We are hurting. My son’s father is one of those trapped underground. And my son keeps on asking me about the whereabouts of his father. I don’t know what to tell him. We are asking for help so that we can see whether they are alive or not.”

Five bodies were retrieved from the mine shaft last week and only one person made it to the surface alive.

Mine management says it’s doing its best to ensure that the rescue mission starts soonest. But the workers who haven’t been paid since November last year, say they will never allow the rescue operation to begin until their salaries are paid.”

Gloria Mine employee Elias Mthimunye says, “There will be no rescue here because we need our money first; then if they can pay us we are going to allow them to install the electricity so that they can rescue those guys underground. There is nothing we can do. We need our money, we know that there is no air underground and those guys can suffocate.”

Affected families are hoping that the mineworkers will change their minds, and allow the rescue mission to continue as they believe the process will help them find closure.

Watch related video for more on the story: