Dam Accident in S. Africa Kills 13; 64 Missing

From Reuters

Hundreds of rescuers used dogs and sonar equipment to search Thursday for up to 64 people missing after a wave of poisonous sludge from a burst South African gold mine dam engulfed their homes.

Police Col. Joe Malherbe said the bodies of 13 people had been recovered. The number of missing stood at 88 early Thursday but was later dropped to 64.

The figure changed as people feared buried alive reported to police or rescuers during the day that they were not caught in the path of the killer wave.


Malherbe told a news conference that he doubted anyone will be found alive in the mud.

Rescue workers said they planned to try to remove the mud from the disaster site today to see if there are any bodies still trapped. “We will carry on until we find the last body,” one said.

The sludge swept away buildings in an area over a mile long after the dam burst during heavy rains Tuesday night.

Yards deep in places, the mud was hardening into a flat field Thursday with the remains of buildings, furniture and cars poking through the surface.

Most of the dead were buried alive in their homes when a six-foot-high wall of sludge, laced with cyanide to extract gold from ore, roared through a housing complex for mainly white mine workers beneath the dam.

In another mining accident, 35 coal miners were reported trapped by an underground fire at the Koornfontein colliery in the Eastern Transvaal.

A spokesman for Trans-Natal Coal Corp. Ltd. said 17 of the trapped men had been located in a refuge bay 600 feet underground.


“Food and water are being provided via a drill hole which ends inside the rescue bay,” he said, adding that the company hoped to bring them to the surface within 24 hours.

Probe holes were being drilled to try to locate the 18 missing workers.