South Africa: A number of Zimbabweans are feared to be among the people who died in a blast that happened at a disused mine in South Africa where 29 bodies have been retrieved while 11 people were rescued.

The accident is suspected to have occurred on Thursday last week at Harmony Gold mine shaft in Welkom, Free State, but was discovered earlier this week.

Zimbabwe Consul-General in South Africa Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro said the suspected illegal miners are said to have forced open the defunct mine using explosives. After several blasts the mine collapsed on them.

He said South African officials have started a rescue mission which has seen several bodies being removed.

“It’s a combination of the blast plus the suffocation from the blast because of the gases. So my understanding is that they are suspecting that these people are from three nationalities, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” he said.

“So far they have removed 29 bodies and managed to rescue 11 people. The 11 are being held so that they can assist in the identification of bodies and providing information on what really happened.”

Mr Mukonoweshuro said it was disturbing that the illegal miners blasted a defunct mine sealed with concrete to gain entry, exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals.

“It’s so unfortunate that the Zimbabweans continue to take risks in these disused mines in trying to eke a living. Unfortunately these scenarios always play out and no one knows how to stop them. There is a debate in the country on how they can stop it and in this incident the mine was actually sealed but they blew it open,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro.

He said today they will engage the South African authorities who will provide refined information on what really happened.

Mr Mukonoweshuro said although it was understandable that the country’s citizens will be trying to fend for their families, they should avoid taking life- threatening jobs.

 “We continue to urge our people to desist from entering disused mines because they risk their lives all the time. And we also want to pay tribute to those who are assisting, the government of South Africa and we’re sorry if there are any Zimbabweans who have lost their lives in this tragedy,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro.