(AP) Debris trapped a group of miners who were working illegally in an abandoned mine in South Africa, but rescue workers cleared the mine shaft entrance and at least 11 miners were escorted to safety on Sunday, officials said.
Some of the miners still below the surface in the gold mine shaft near Johannesburg appeared to be reluctant to emerge because of fears they would be arrested, emergency responder Kobus Du Plooy said by telephone from the scene. He said he did not know how many people were still in the mine.
Some of those who came out were dehydrated but otherwise in good spirits, Du Plooy said. Earlier, rescue vehicles and equipment were brought to the site to stabilize the ground before the operation to free the miners.
The miners were believed to have been trapped since Saturday morning and police patrolling in the area heard their screams for help, the South African Press Association reported.
Rescue teams arriving at the scene were able to speak to about 30 miners near the top of the old shaft, whose entrance was covered by a large rock, the news agency said. Those miners said as many as 200 others were trapped further down a steep tunnel at the mine in Benoni, on the outskirts of South Africa's biggest city.
Illegal mining is common in South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum. Workers brave unsafe conditions below ground amid reports of the involvement of organized crime and even clashes between rival groups seeking to extract precious metal from the shafts.