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17 trapped in South Africa mine blaze

File photo: South African mine workers walk home with fire wood in Carletonville/AFP

File photo: South African mine workers walk home with fire wood in Carletonville/AFP

JOHANNESBURG, February 5- South African emergency services raced to rescue 17 miners trapped deep underground in a burning mine west of Johannesburg Wednesday, owners Harmony Gold said.

The fire broke out late Tuesday some 1.7 kilometres (1.1 miles) beneath the surface at the firm’s Doornkop gold mine.

Eight employees are in the process of being rescued from an underground refuse bay, but nine more are still feared trapped.

“The rescue teams are continuing to try to locate the other individuals who are unaccounted for — there are still nine employees who are unaccounted for,” said spokeswoman Charmane Russell.

“Rescue teams were immediately dispatched underground, but access to the affected area is being hampered by smoke and a subsequent fall of ground,” the company said.

“We can’t speculate on the cause, it is really early all the focus right now is on trying to locate the missing men.”

Operations at the mine have been suspended.

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