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Rescue underway for 3,000 stuck in South African mine

Rescuers are evacuating some 3,000 miners from a gold mine in South Africa, but officials say it could take 10 hours to get them all out safely.

Rescuers are evacuating some 3,000 miners from a gold mine in South Africa, but officials say it could take 10 hours to get them all out safely.

Harmony Gold Mining Co.'s Elandsrand Mine is located northeast of Johannesburg. ((CBC))

Company and union officials said no one had been injured and the workers were in no immediate danger in the Harmony Gold Mining Co.'s ElandsrandMine,west of Johannesburg.

About 350 men had reached the surface by5 a.m. local time Thursday(11 p.m. ET Wednesday). "They are all doing well," said Peter Bailey, health and safety chairman for the National Mineworkers Union.

The accident happened around 10 a.m. local time Wednesday(4 a.m. ET).

The minersbecame stuck in a sectionnearlytwokilometres below the surface when pipes from a collapsed water column fell in the shaft, company officials said.The falling pipe caused extensive damage to the steel framework and to theelectrical feeder cables of the elevator that carries miners in and out.

Rescuers plan togetthe workersoutover the next 24 hourslifting them to the surface witha smaller cage in an adjacent shaft, butsay itwill be a lengthy process.

The cage can onlyhold about 75 miners at a time.While it typically takes three minutes for it to reach the surface,that time could be lengthenedbecause rescuers are using extra caution.

Company officials said they have been in contact with the trapped workers, and have sent them food and water.

But the union health chairman said some of the miners had gone on their shift Tuesday evening and were becoming "very afraid," hungry and thirsty after being underground for hours. "It is now Wednesday night and they are still underground," said Bailey.

A union spokesmansaidconcerns had been raisedwith the managers about whether the mine has been properly maintained, but no action was taken. The union expressed worries about rock falls and mudslides impeding the rescue.

Last year, 199 South African mineworkers died in accidents, mostly from rock falls, the government Mine Health and Safety Council reported in September.

With files from the Associated Press

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