JOHANNESBURG -- At least five people are dead and an unknown number are trapped underground after an explosion at a non-operational coal mine in South Africa.
The Department of Mineral Resources said Thursday that five bodies had been retrieved from a shaft at the Gloria mine in Mpumalanga province, about two hours east of Johannesburg.
Police have declared the area a crime scene.
Survivors told a local newspaper that a group had entered the mine to steal power cables when there was a gas explosion.
The government says rescue efforts are "hampered" because the shaft is unsafe and not properly ventilated.
Mining is one of South Africa's most important industries. South Africa's Mineral Council, an industry body, says 84 miners were killed in 2018 in mine-related accidents.