At least 22 people are trapped underground at a coal mine in South Africa following a gas explosion, local media report.
Emergency staff were at the Gloria mine in Mpumalanga province, but it was too risky for them to try and rescue the trapped group because of a lack of electricty, the local Middelburg Observer news site reported.
The 22 were believed to be part of a group of 42 who had been trying to steal electrical cables from the underground mine outside Middelburg town, 165km (100 miles) east of the main city of Johannesburg, when the blast occurred, South Africa’s Business Day newspaper reported on its website.
Twenty of the group managed to return above ground, but the rest remained trapped, it added.
The government’s Department of Mineral Resources said it had dispatched a team of inspectors to the mine.
“The mine is currently not operational,” it said in a statement quoted by the IOL news site.
Those trapped were believed to be Lesotho nationals, the news site added.
Many people from Lesotho work in mines in South Africa.
The Gloria mine is part of the Optimum Coal assets, which the controversial Gupta family bought in 2016.
Business Day reports that they were put into business rescue about a year ago, which is a process that allows for the restructuring of companies in financial distress.
The paper adds that many workers had not been paid since October and have not turned up for work since December.