At least five people are presumed dead after a disused diamond mine collapsed in Namaqualand in the Northern Cape.

Authorities in the area say the mine reportedly collapsed in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The people in the mine – believed to have been illegal miners or zama zamas  – were trapped for hours, with hopes of finding survivors alive fading quickly.

Kleinsee – a former De Beers mining town – has been the point of attention of thousands of illegals miners in the last few years.

It’s unclear what led to the collapse of the mine and how many people are still trapped inside.

Paul Swartbooi witnessed the event: “Early this morning between 9am and 10am the mine collapsed and some of the miners were trapped inside. We don’t know if there are any survivors. We have pleaded with government many times to give us proper equipment so that we can work in a safe environment but all these requests have fallen on deaf ears. We are just trying to provide for our families that’s all.”