CAPE TOWN, July 26 (Xinhua) -- More than 600 miners were successfully evacuated on Thursday after a fire broke out underground at a gold mine in South Africa, authorities said.
The fire broke out on Thursday morning at the Gold One's Modder East operations in Springs, Gauteng Province, according to the Department of Mineral Resources.
At the time of the accident, 644 employees were underground, department spokesperson Nathi Shabangu said.
All of the employees were evacuated to the mine's refuge bays wherein they were rescued from and brought to surface, he said.
The cause of the fire remains unknown.
The rescue operation drew immediate applause from Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe.
"We commend all the rescue teams involved, as well as the mine employees and management, for their swift action in ensuring that we avert a potential disaster," the minister said.
He reiterated a call on mining companies to prioritize the safety of mine-workers and to ensure that everyone adhere to the guidelines provided for safety at the mines.
South Africa has seen a rise in mine disasters in the past two years.
In February, about 900 mine workers were trapped underground after a power failure at the Beatrix Mine in the Northern Free State. All the miners were rescued later.
Since the beginning of this year, the mining industry has reported 26 fatalities.
Last year, the number of fatalities on South African mines surged to 88, the first rise in a decade, compared with the 73 deaths recorded in 2016. Enditem