News World Workers rescued from South Africa mine
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Workers rescued from South Africa mine

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Eleven men trapped in an illegal gold mine in South Africa have been rescued but an unknown number remain underground fearing arrest.

The men, who were all uninjured, were immediately handed over to police.

Rescue officials said on Sunday many others were now able to leave the mine but had refused to come out while officials were present, fearing arrest.

“We managed to retrieve 11 young men. We believe they are South Africans, they have been treated and handed over to the police,” municipal emergency and rescue services official Rogger Mamaila said.

“Yes, there is a possibility that there could be more, but we don’t know and we are not going to send any of our rescuers down there.”

Police spokesman Mack Mngomezulu said a number of men remained in the abandoned mine east of Johannesburg and were refusing to come out for fear of arrest.

Around 30 miners who were trapped at a shallow level had earlier told rescuers from a private operator ER24 there were 200 others stuck at a level underneath them.

That was never confirmed, however, with local municipal officials insisting there were only around 30 people trapped.

Mamaila declared the rescue operation closed around two hours after the 11 were brought to the surface.

“Should there somebody who was not brave enough to come out, at least we removed the boulders and have created a free passageway,” said Mamaila.

“It’s for them to decide when to come out.”

Municipal officials said the workers went down on Saturday into the mine using a shaft dug illegally behind a cricket stadium in the Benoni district east of Johannesburg.

But police suspect some of them had been underground for up 12 days.

Many are thought to be former mine workers familiar with the geography of the mines and can walk for several kilometres underground and possibly come out through other exit points, according to police.

They became trapped when large rocks fell and blocked the entrance to the shaft, and were able to climb out when rescuers using excavation equipment cleared the way.

Police on patrol nearby discovered the men were trapped when a passer-by said he had heard screams for help.