Death toll at Gupta mine rises to 12, too dangerous to recover bodies
The death toll at the Gloria coal mine near Middelburg in Mpumalanga, which was rocked by an underground gas explosion last week, increased to 12 on Thursday.
A business rescue representative for the mine, Mike Elliot, told TimesLIVE that the rescue team had found seven more bodies underground.
However, it was too dangerous for the rescue teams to remain underground and the bodies were not brought to the surface.
"We have identified the position where the bodies are. We need to put in a bigger fan to suck air and explosive and poisonous gases out of the mine.
"Once that fan is operating we will restart the rescue and recovery operations. We will send the mine rescue services down in teams," Elliot said.
The Gloria mine forms part of the Optimum Coal assets bought by the Gupta family in 2016. They were put into business rescue early in 2018.
Several illegal miners were trapped underground after a gas explosion on February 6 while they were stripping cables at the mine, which has been closed for several months.
Initially, the bodies of five miners were recovered. It is unclear how many miners are still trapped underground.
Elliot would not comment on whether the remaining trapped illegal miners were still alive.
"I would not take a guess on human life. There was a massive explosion in this area and when there is an explosion, it is extremely hot.
"There is a huge amount of blast pressure and soon as the gases explode, the oxygen is gone," he added.