Illegal Miners Blamed for Gas Leak That Killed 16

3 children among the dead in South Africa disaster
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2023 3:25 AM CDT
Illegal Miners Blamed for Gas Leak That Killed 16
People huddle around a fire for warmth in the Angelo Informal Settlement in Boksburg, South Africa, on Thursday, July 6, 2023.   (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

At least 16 people, including three children, were killed by a leak of a toxic nitrate gas being used by illegal miners to process gold in a settlement of closely packed metal shacks, South African police and local officials said late Wednesday. Emergency services initially announced that as many as 24 people might be dead in the Angelo settlement in Boksburg, a city on the eastern outskirts of Johannesburg. But police and Gauteng Province Premier Panyaza Lesufi later said the number of deaths had been confirmed as 16, the AP reports. "It's not a nice scene at all ... It's painful, emotionally draining and tragic," said Lesufi, who visited the scene.

Teams were searching the area looking for other casualties deep into the night. The bodies of the victims remained lying on the ground hours after the leak was reported around 8pm as emergency services waited for forensic investigators and pathologists to arrive to process the scene. Police said the three children killed were aged 1, 6, and 15. Two people were taken to the hospital for treatment, police said. "We can't move anybody. The bodies are still where they are on the ground," said emergency services spokesman William Ntladi.

Ntladi said Wednesday's deaths were caused by a nitrate gas that leaked from a gas cylinder being kept in a shack. He said the canister had emptied out in the leak and teams were able to begin going over an area stretching out 100 yards from the cylinder to check for more casualties. Ntladi said the information authorities had indicated the cylinder that caused the leak was being used by illegal miners to separate gold from dirt and rock. Authorities didn't say if the miners they believed to be responsible for the gas leak were among the casualties. (More South Africa stories.)

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