Wife's anguish as search at mine called off

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illegal miner 1 INLSA Illegal miner Mthulisi Chuma has been missing underground since Sunday.

Johannesburg - Sitting on the ground under the scorching sun, Angela Dube’s eyes stayed transfixed on a hole a few metres away.

The 31-year-old woman has not been able to tear herself away from the hole since it swallowed her husband and father of their seven-year-old son on Saturday morning. She has also not been able to eat.

Mthulisi Chuma, 31, had gone to the disused Durban Deep mine in Roodepoort to look for gold. Propelled by stories of people who made fortunes while digging for gold illegally in disused mines, Chuma took a taxi trip to Roodepoort on Saturday.

It is believed that there wasa gas explosion underground, trapping Chuma and three other people.

Other illegal miners managed to escape.

Of the trapped people, emergency workers managed to rescue only one person and recover two bodies.

illegal miner Joburg Emergency Management Services staff members walk near the hole which Mthulisi Chuma and other illegal miners used to go underground at the disused Durban Deep mine in Roodepoort. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse INLSA

Chuma, however, was not found. All that was found was his bag, containing clean clothes that he was going to wear following his stint underground.

After three days, Joburg Emergency Management Services decided to call off the search on Wednesday afternoon.

Spokeswoman Nana Radebe said they had done a robust search but found nothing.

She said they had done all they could since receiving a call on Sunday evening and even enlisted the help of other miners at the scene to go down and guide paramedics to where the trapped miners were last seen.

“He is nowhere to be found,” said Radebe.

The news, however, has been hard on the family, especially his wife.

Dube was aware that her husband had been going to the abandoned mine, and wanted him to stop.

An illegal miner who had alerted the family to what had happened said it was Chuma’s fourth time going underground when he disappeared.

Dube was not happy when Chuma told her he was going to the mine on Saturday morning.

“I asked him what kind of money was he looking for underground, but he said there were many things he wanted to do with money, such as extending our tuckshop. He said he hated it there because it was very difficult, but that he was just trying to make money,” she said.

When one of the illegal miners who had gone down told the family that he had seen three people and that they were breathing, Chuma clung to the hope that her husband would be found alive. That hope faded the following day. “I don’t want much… just for him to be found like the others,” she said.

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