JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A second collapse of a mine shaft on Saturday has forced rescuers to suspend a search for three people who have been trapped underground for more than a week at a South African mine.
Rescue teams were trying to reach mineworkers trapped inside a container that was buried beneath thousands of tons of debris after a mine collapse on Feb. 5. Two women and one man — Pretty Mabuza, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyarenda — were working inside a mobile office container, distributing headlamps and safety gear to miners, when an underground pillar caved in, creating a sinkhole that swallowed the container.
There have been no signs of life from inside the container since Tuesday, said Mike Begg, manager of the Lily gold mine, owned by Australia-based Vantage Goldfields. Before then, rescue workers could hear tapping sounds.
Rescue teams were evacuated after the second collapse and will only resume their search once conditions are safe, Begg told the Associated Press. Teams of 40 people have been working on around the clock to uncover the container, he said.
The mine manager told journalists that the eight day search has begun to take its toll on rescue workers, some of whom have begun to fall ill.
"It's slow progress," said Begg, his shirt soiled and disheveled, with smudges on his face.
Families of the trapped workers have not left the mine in the eastern Mpumalanga province, holding prayer services throughout the search, South African media reported. All 87 miners who were underground during the collapse were rescued.
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