JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from an underground gas explosion at Gloria coal mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa, has risen to 12 after more bodies were retrieved on Thursday.
Rescue operations at Gloria Coal mine in Mpumalanga were halted on Thursday after seven bodies of alleged illegal miners were brought to surface.
Speaking to Xinhua, Minerals Resources Department spokesperson Ayanda Shezi said high levels of methane underground posed risks to rescue teams.
"Two teams continued with the rescue operations last night. They confirmed that seven bodies were discovered close to a refuge bay," Shezi said. "Methane levels are too high underground so the rescue process has been stopped for now."
She said rescue teams would need to suck out methane first from the mine before deciding when to continue with the operations. Bad weather also affected rescue work.
"A review of the risks is being done to determine when it will be safe for them to resume," she said.
Rescue operations commenced last Thursday after a huge underground explosion in the mine which was abandoned in 2018.
It is believed that 22 illegal miners had gone underground to steal copper cable. The 10 others are still trapped 2 km underground from the mineshaft.