Death toll at South Africa mine rises to six

Officials stand next to the gate leading to the unused mine shaft where people have been killed by a gas explosion in Gloria colliery Mine at South Africa’s eastern province of Mpumalanga, South Africa February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Six people have died at a gas explosion in an unused coal mine in South Africa’s eastern province of Mpumalanga while several others remain trapped.

This is according to a representative of the creditor protection team at the mine, Michael Elliot.

“As I’ve been informed, there are six deceased people in this point in time that has been taken to the mortuary,” Elliot told Reuters over the phone.

However rescue efforts have been hampered by dangerously high levels of toxic gas underground

“We first have to restore power to the mine and we have to restore the ventilation to make it safe and once it’s safe… then we will go and recover these people that are missing,” he said.

Confirming the incident was also police spokesman, Leonard Hlati, who revealed that several people had entered the mine on Wednesday afternoon to steal copper wires that supply electricity for lighting and ventilation when a gas pipe exploded

“The mine is wired with copper. They were going for copper,” Hlati said.

The mine is owned by Tegeta Resources and Exploration, which is undergoing creditor protection after its owners, the Gupta brothers, found it difficult to continue doing business in South Africa following corruption allegations against them;allegations they have since denied