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Hope fading as over 100 hours pass with miners still trapped

Rescue efforts continue to free the three miners, but union officials say they are beginning to lose hope.

Friends, family and co-workers of the three trapped mineworkers arrived at the Lilys Mine, in Barberton to offer support. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Three mineworkers trapped 80 meters underground at the Lily Mine near Barberton have now been trapped for more than 100 hours.

Rescue teams at the site have remained tight-lipped about the progress of the operation, while union officials say the workers are starting to lose hope.

Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyerende and Yvonne Mnisi were trapped when a lamp room made of metal collapsed into a sinkhole at the top of the mine on Friday morning.

Since then they've sent audio signals to rescue teams by tapping on the metal structure - sparking hope and urgency in the operation.

Throughout the day the friends, family and co-workers of the three mineworkers have arrived at the mine to offer support.

Earlier, the Council of Churches held a service with the families and prayed for a miracle.

Among the union officials present is Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) President Joseph Mathunjwa.

He says as time passes, hope seems to fade.

"You are not there yourself, it's only the imagination that those people are dehydrated, hungry and their hope that is fading away. But nevertheless, we believe that the miracles that God will perform, will amaze everyone."

Mine officials say getting access to the container is still one of their biggest problems.

So far they have excavated more than 4000 tonnes of debris and are clearing huge boulders through controlled explosions.

FAMILIES PREPARE FOR THE WORST

Meanwhile, while friends and relatives wait for news on rescue operations, the family of two of the workers trapped inside a metal container say they doubt their loved ones will be brought out alive.

The close family members of three trapped miners have been taken inside the mine premises to wait for the outcome of the rescue mission.

This morning's indication from mine management that another audio signal had been sent to rescue workers, inspired hope among the family.

Titus Nkosi is the brother-in-law of Nkambule.

He says since the trio have been stuck underground with no food or water for four full days, he's made peace with whatever outcome.

Nyerende is Nyerende's aunt, and says she just wants the ordeal to end.

The mine management has not indicated if any progress has been made while friends of the trapped workers continue waiting outside the premises for any news.