S.Africa mine rescue halted with 20 trapped, six dead

By Agence France-Presse

South African rescuers said Friday that they had been forced to halt an operation to rescue about 20 people trapped in a disused mine, blaming disruption from workers who had not been paid.

Six people died after trespassing into the Gloria coal mine near the town of Middelburg in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, police told AFP, updating the earlier death toll of five.

The group went underground between Sunday and Wednesday to allegedly steal copper cables in the mine, which had been closed for several months.

"We have been prevented from continuing with the recovery operations by a disgruntled group of people who have not been paid their salaries," Mike Elliot, who represents the administrators of the mine, told local media.

"They refuse to allow us to continue with the recovery operations and that includes repairing the power to the mine, restoring the power to the fans so that we can put fresh air underground."

He said some locals had attempted their own rescue operations.

Police say there was a gas explosion in the disused shaft on Monday.