The death toll at an abandoned coal mine hit by a gas explosion in South Africa’s eastern province of Mpumalanga rose to 12 after seven bodies were discovered Thursday morning.
Mike Elliot, a representative of the Gloria Coal mine, told state broadcaster SABC that the rescue team had discovered seven bodies underground on Thursday morning but has been unable to bring them to the surface.
He said the rescue team had to swiftly return to the surface due to high concentration of poisonous gasses underground.
“The retrieval of the people will take place as soon as we have put another fan and sucked out the poisonous gas. We can then guarantee the rescue teams' safety and send them underground,” he said.
One week ago, five dead bodies were brought to surface after a gas explosion erupted at the disused coal mine.
Speedy Mashilo, a provincial minister for co-operative governance and traditional affairs, told reporters at the time that after the five bodies were retrieved, 22 people were still trapped underground.
Local media reports claimed that the men had entered the disused coal mine to steal copper wires.
Officials have not yet confirmed this claim, but illegal mining is a huge problem in South Africa, where people often risk their lives by entering abandoned mines to dig for minerals left behind.
By Hassan Isilow in Johannesburg