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Mining Accident in South Africa Traps 3,000; Rescue Ops Under Way

Rescue workers have begun rescuing the first of three thousand miners trapped underground after an accident early Wednesday at a gold mine outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The first 75 miners reached the surface early Thursday after being trapped underground since Wednesday morning at the Elandsrand mine near the city of Carletonville.

Graham Briggs, an official with the Harmony Gold company -- which operates the mine -- said there have been no injuries or deaths. He said officials expect the rescue operation to take as long as 10 hours because they are working slowly and carefully.

Earlier, Harmony Gold spokeswoman Amelia Soares told VOA the workers became trapped after a pipe broke then fell down the mine shaft, causing extensive damage to electrical wiring and steelwork which is part of the mine elevator.

Soares said engineers are reconfiguring a smaller, secondary lift to hoist the men to the surface.

Earlier, mine workers union officials expressed concern over the safety of the miners. But late reports quote the union as saying the miners are in good condition.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.