‘One hundred percent of him is gone’ – families gather to identify Welkom zama zamas


‘One hundred percent of him is gone’ – families gather to identify Welkom zama zamas

Graeme Hosken | 2017-05-18 14:10:42.0

A mining hard hat and gloves.

Image by: iStock Images

Dozens of families from across southern Africa have gathered outside a small Free State mortuary praying the news they have received this week is not true.

As they huddle in small groups in the sun to keep warm outside Welkom mortuary in the Free State‚ some hold each other crying softly‚ others watching as more mortuary vans bring in bodies from Harmony Gold’s Eland shaft. The mine is no longer operational‚ but it is a site of informal mining. Those inside were killed in a suspected methane gas explosion last week Thursday.

By Wednesday 27 bodies‚ many burnt beyond recognition‚ had been brought to the surface.

Today another five were recovered‚ with informal miners alerting authorities and mine rescue personnel to at least another 40 said to be trapped underground.

Among the dead are Zimbabweans‚ Mozambicans and at least one Lesotho national.

A Zimbabwe national‚ who asked not to be identified‚ fought back the tears moments after identifying his brother William Dube.

“There’s nothing left of him. Everything was burnt. One hundred percent of him is gone.”

He said he last spoke to his brother three months ago.

“William told me he was scared. He was scared of the gas the most. He said you can’t smell it. You just feel tired and then you go to sleep.

“His wife begged him not to go underground. She was scared. She didn’t want him to go‚ but he has two children – who are four years and six months old – to support.”

He said they wanted to know what had happened.

“We can see there was an explosion. Some people say there was a fight with other zama zamas (illegal miners) others say they had made a fire to cook food.”

Free State provincial police along with government mining officials are set to return to the shaft this afternoon.

A policeman involved in the rescue said they were constantly recovering bodies from the shaft.

“We are getting calls constantly today to say more bodies have been found.

“It’s become so busy that we are going to go in with the body truck again this afternoon.”

– TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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